As I enter the High Holy Days, it is a time each year for self-reflection. What are the good deeds I’ve done this year? Have I been a good person to those around me? What lessons have I learned from my mistakes? Whom have I hurt with my words or actions? Have I kept my personal commitments as a Jew to my friends, family, and community? Have I lived “Jewishly” according to God’s commandments?
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and it is important to recognize the stigmas against mental health and suicide still remain in our society. To me, it is vital we keep talking about mental health and ways to take care of yourself and others. I’d like to share my story and a few resources with you all. Having lost someone, I love to suicide; I am a survivor. Suicide is complicated. Everyone handles suicide loss differently. It’s common to get angry, or regretful. It’s normal to wonder what we could have done to “save” the person. And while I don’t blame myself, I do feel shame sometimes, knowing my uncle was struggling. I even thought he might end his life, and yet I didn’t reach out. I know the choice was his. Nevertheless, the guilt creeps in sometimes.
In this parashah, we are simply and directly commanded to pay our workers. We are compelled to pay the people who work for us in a timely manner because they rely upon those wages to take care of themselves, their families, and even their communities. Nachmanides, the medieval sage known as Rambam explains, “For if you do not pay him immediately when he leaves work, he will starve and die that night.” While that may feel like an extreme example of what might happen in our 21st-century world, it is not so far-fetched when we look deeper into the inequalities of our employment systems, particularly in the United States.
There are many ways that, as an individual or as a group, we can advance social justice in one’s community and throughout the world. Examine your beliefs and habits. Educate yourself about social justice issues, discover local organizations, take positive action in your community, harness the power of social media, attend demonstrations and protests, volunteer, donate, get involved with politics through civic engagement, and make your voice heard on local radio and television, investigate what is happening at local colleges and universities, invest responsibly, support minority-owned business in your community and online, support artists, writers, and activists that speak out against injustices, be kind, understanding, and compassionate.
Will you do the same things you did last year or will you add something new and different? “Keeping it fresh” leads to vitality, increased membership, a deeper volunteer pool, and well-attended programming. Even when we have a program every year, like a YES Fund event, we should find ways to introduce new dimensions. This could be a different venue, different theme, different program, or a different way to recognize an honoree. Take a road trip. Have a picnic. Host a traditional tea. Go to a football or hockey game. When I was in Girl Scouts, I learned the simple song sung in a round: “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver, and the other is gold.” I think the same principle can apply to everything we do: add new and innovative ideas while at the same time keeping the core of what has made us successful so far.
WRJ YES Fund Grantee Fundación Judaica was established after the tragic attack in July of 1994 on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina, a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Jews are known as the “people of the book.” Our teachings direct us to be lifelong learners. Each time we reach the end of Deuteronomy, we immediately begin again with Parashat Bereshit. Each time we study a verse, we bring our current selves into the conversation. The words of the Torah remain the same --- it is our own life experiences that may change how we understand or interpret those same words.
The pandemic has offered us an opportunity “to see” (R’eih) more clearly what our blessings are. These past two and a half years have given us a moment to pause and consider what is truly important in our lives. ... My synagogue is the central meeting place where I get to practice and live my Judaism with my temple community. To belong and to be connected to something very powerful and to belong to others gives me great meaning and fulfillment. My central meeting place, my synagogue, is forever a blessing.
In the last several weeks, there has been a lot of attention on the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. This is understandable as this is an important issue concerning women's rights. However, there has not been as much attention paid to the Supreme Court decision of West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This ruling undermines the authority of the EPA under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution from power plants. The decision is a setback to reducing the carbon pollution that is affecting climate change and may spell a delay for U.S. climate action when time is of the essence.