May 23, 2023

There are moments from my past I remember vividly. One of them was the Shavuot service back in 1990 when I was 16 and went through Confirmation as part of a 38-member class at Temple Isaiah in the Bay Area. I remember how tight-knit my class was and how much fun we had together. In fact, many of us would travel a few weeks later to Israel for a 6-week summer experience of a lifetime.

I was thinking about this moment recently as I realized that Shavuot was quickly approaching. (Shavuot begins at sundown THIS Thursday) This is a holiday that I did not celebrate growing up, and I'm sure many in our community had a similar experience. I find that incredibly fascinating because of what the holiday commemorates. And that is receiving the Torah. The collection of books provides us with the foundation of Judaism – our history and the guidelines for how we should live our lives and interact with the world around us.

And like most Jewish holidays, food (specifically dairy) plays a central role in Shavuot. To find out why that is, check out this My Jewish Learning article to learn the various reasons. So celebrating Shavuot requires you to eat cheesecake and blintzes. And if anyone questions you, you can say that you are doing it because it says so in the Torah.

For this week's column, I thought I would focus our attention on the Torah and precisely how it is OUR story… the story of how we came to be Jews and part of this incredible community. But unlike other books, our story has continued for thousands of years. There have been "plot twists and turns" and points where we could not even imagine where our story would go next.

In fact, we find ourselves in the midst of another pivotal juncture in our story. While people are participating and engaging in the Jewish community in far different ways than ever before, we are being confronted by unforeseen challenges that have reared their ugly heads again. By that, I mean the meteoric rise of antisemitism we have witnessed in the last several years and the increased focus on security needs at Jewish institutions. (To read how your Jewish Federation has been responding to this locally, please see last week's update email.)

As our story of the Jewish community in the greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys continues to play out, each of us plays a critical role in the direction our story takes. Will you help confront the challenges ahead by actively participating and finding a way to make a difference? Or will you step back and wait for others to take the lead? Only you know how your "character" will respond to this moment.

I can assure you that the Jewish Federation will continue to do whatever we can to move our collective story forward to the next exciting chapter with your help, either through your participation or financial support.

I hope you remember this as you celebrate Shavuot this year.


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