I used to love the start of the school year. I loved shopping for school supplies and clothes for the year. The year felt new, exciting, and full of endless possibilities. As I have gotten older and thought more about this start of the year, I love the juxtaposition of the new school year and the start of the Jewish year.
In many ways, the excitement I once felt at the start of the new school year is almost entirely the same. There is a buzz in the Jewish world as the days draw closer and closer to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In many ways, there is the same sense of endless possibilities that lie ahead of the Jewish community.
I believe that the Jewish community is at its finest during Yamim Noraim, the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. People feel a deep connection to these holy days and it is evident because so many of us find our way to our local synagogues. We also often recommit ourselves to our Judaism during this time.
I believe we do this for many different reasons. However, what I would like to think is that it is the strong sense of community and feeling a part of something greater than we are that pulls us to engage and participate during these holy days.
Connecting with community is a very powerful driving force for so many of us. Especially in an area like the greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys where we often feel isolated since so many of us do not live in an area with many Jewish families. Often our kids are the only Jews in their class, let alone in the entire school. By connecting with the Jewish community, we are reminded that we are not alone.
So not only do we benefit personally, but so does our community. Our community is so much stronger when we engage together… it is what deepens our connection to our faith and our traditions. It is why we are required to have a minyan for certain prayers… it is the minyan that is a reminder that we are part of a community. Moreover, that we have a role within the community and the community has a role within our lives.
This new year, I encourage you to strengthen your connection with our community. Attend one more event or service than you did last year. Volunteer or commit to giving back to the community. Do something that helps connect you with the local Jewish community. I promise you; you will not be disappointed, and our community will be stronger because of it.
On behalf of the Jewish Federation’s Board of Governors and Staff, may each of you (and your family) be inscribed in the Book of Life in 5779 for a year of good health and happiness. L’Shana Tova!