It’s been a strange year. One might classify it as “hybrid” year, not only because of the bifurcated nature of our experiences – in person and online – but because we have had to shift focus so often, whether to adjust to new challenges from Covid, or challenges to conscience, such as the invasion of Ukraine. Or the resultant challenges to our unity, stability, and even, to a degree, our sanity, posed by all these other challenges.
The sweeping social changes that we are experiencing – including more people working from home or quitting their jobs altogether, rapidly rising costs and the increased risks from illness, loneliness and rage – these are bad enough. But add to all of them the unique trials synagogues confront these days. Imagine. We finally return to some semblance of in-person normalcy, only to have to undergo special security drills because of the growing threats of violence directed against Jews. So our “reward” for coming back to the building is the increased possibility of being physically attacked, rather than simply being Zoom-bombed. The ADL declared that 2021 was “an all-time high” for antisemitic incidents in the US, and 2022 looks like it might give 2021 a run for its money.
In the midst of all this confusion and craziness, The Atlantic came out with a notable essay entitled, “WHY THE PAST 10 YEARS OF AMERICAN LIFE HAVE BEEN UNIQUELY STUPID,” which lays out an impressive case for the stupefying consequences of social media. But for me, the blunt rudeness of the title, implying that we are now, officially, a dumb-as-a-doornail nation, is itself a consequence of the past two years of crazy that we have not yet emerged from. For the sake of clickbait, we’ve forgotten how to be tactful even in the titles of otherwise thought provoking articles.
I look at this and it is no wonder that so many of my clergy colleagues have thrown up their hands and are leaving pulpits in unprecedented numbers, and that prestigious seminaries like Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati have shuttered their doors amidst rapidly declining enrollment.
But despite these trends, and all the craziness, synagogues are needed more than ever. Clergy and laity alike shouldn’t be running away from them. We should be running toward them. You need us. We need us. And we need you.
Whether in person or online, we at TBE have been an oasis amidst the gathering storms (and they’re not really gathering; they’re already here. The UN says we’ll have 30 percent more catastrophic storms – 560 every year – by 2030). Our Zoom Seder was a perfect example. We were not expecting large numbers, given the low rates of transmission at the time. But the transmission rate must have been higher than advertised, because we got a number of last-minute requests from people whose in-person plans had been scuttled by this merciless disease. We shared a sacred moment together, and it was very special. And I came away feeling like we had done a big-time mitzvah. That’s why we’re here.
These things happen again and again. There is so much to be proud of.
This May and June, we’ll take a few moments to explore what we’ve accomplished and where we are heading, in particular at two events: our annual meeting, and more significantly a few days later with the official, Covid-delayed installation of our "new" cantor. I have such fond memories of my installation as senior rabbi here, back on September 11 (of all days), 1992, which at that time was just any old day. But we filled that with pomp and emotion, and that is precisely what will happen when we install Cantor Kaplan. She has already accomplished so much, inspiring us, cheering us and calming us during these most stormy hours. I hope you’ll be able to join us at these events, as we partake in the magic of sustaining a thriving community in the most challenging of times.
It’s been a hybrid type of year, but we’ll be all-in to celebrate!
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