"The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members." – Coretta Scott King
I never realized how true this quote was until I started reflecting on the communities I have been a part of in my life.
Growing up in my hometown of Danville, a small suburb in the Bay Area, I took great pride in being a part of my community. It was a community full of warmth and hospitality that one may find in any American small town. People would come out for the annual 4th of July parade and chili cook-off and the annual tree lighting of the town’s signature oak tree the day after Thanksgiving.
While my community today is a bit different from the one I grew up in, the sense and the importance of community has stayed with me all of these years later.
In the last few years, I have been teaching my students, both at Temple Beth David and Weizmann Day School, the concept of community. We have looked at the many communities we are all a part of - from our hometown and school, to the sports teams we are a part of, and everything in between. After identifying our various communities, we start to look at the roles and responsibilities there are for each one, as well as what community provides each of us.
I think we sometimes forget about what we get out of being a part of a community, let alone the responsibilities we have as community members or we tell ourselves that someone else can “pick up the slack.” However, when we do this, we impact more than just ourselves, but also the people who are a part of our communities.
In Pirke Avot, Rabbi Hillel said “Al tifrosh min hatzibur” (Do not separate yourself from the community.) This important lesson from our tradition reminds all of us that we have a responsibility to the very people who are a part of our many communities.
As we are now in the first days of 5780, I want to encourage all of us to re-commit ourselves to the communities we are a part of and become more diligent of what it means to be a part of a community.
Now, this commitment can happen in a variety of ways. Maybe it is something as simple as just showing up at an event or even bringing someone else with you. Or, volunteering to help plan or promote an event. (Did you know that one of the best things you can do, the next time you are on Facebook, is to share a post from an organization you are a member of instead of just “liking” it? You would be surprised at how valuable this simple action can be.)
Another way is to make this the year you stand up and say I want to be more involved by serving on a committee or a board. Each of our community organizations, including the Jewish Federation, could use people interested in serving on one of their committees or their board.
Of course, the other way you can show your commitment is by making a financial contribution to the organizations you believe in and support. As someone who runs a non-profit, I can assure you that a financial commitment is always appreciated, no matter the size.
However you decide to re-commit to your communities, thank you for doing it. We are all stronger when people are dedicated to the communities they are a part of.