This short week has felt like a roller-coaster,, as we emerged from Yom Kippur on Monday and prepare to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot this weekend.
As I thought about the health of our American democracy, the safety and well-being of the Jewish community and other vulnerable minorities, civil discourse, moral leadership, and even just basic human dignity, Tuesday’ night’s debate felt demoralizing at best, if not downright scary. I fear that this is just a taste of what’s to come in the coming weeks and months as this toxic election season continues to unfold.
Watching the debate with my three teenage children, I felt embarrassed and sad - at one point my son said that the discourse reminded him of when he fights with his younger sister. Like many of you, I was left wondering how to make a difference when things feel so broken, other than by fulfilling my civic duty to vote on or before November 3rd.
Yet, less than 24 hours later, at our virtual From Strength to Strength event, I found myself inspired and uplifted. For CJP, this is an annual opportunity to look back on the past year and celebrate the incredible people – partners, volunteers, donors, and staff – who make this community so extraordinary.
This year we celebrate 125 years since the founding of CJP as the first Federated Charity in the country, so took the opportunity to look back even further. Through images, videos, speeches and song, we celebrated the strong foundation we have built and the giants of our history on whose shoulders we stand. We also honored the inclusive, dynamic, innovative spirit so unique to our Greater Boston Jewish community and shined a light on the creativity and leadership of our next generation.
In my remarks, which you can watch and read here, I took a moment to reflect on my personal history and to remember the four generations of Bostonians who have come before me. I also challenged us to rise to the call of what feels like an existential moment for the Jewish People, this country, and the world – to realize that history has its eyes on us. Just as we continue to tell and to learn from the stories and the legacy of those who built this community 125 years ago, so too will our great-great-grandchildren look back on this time and ask about our generation: what did they do with their inheritance?
As we head into the holiday of Sukkot, the sukkah is a metaphor for history and the human experience feels particularly poignant right now. Sitting in the sukkah reminds us of the precarious balance between stability and fragility, between that which is in our control and that which is not. At the same, this strange structure that our People have been building and sitting in for thousands of years also reminds us of the long arc of history and of the miraculous fact that we are still here.
May the physical shelter of the sukkah and all it represents bring us joy, peace and, at least, some emotional and spiritual shelter from the tumultuous world and times in which we are living.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach (Happy Sukkot),
Rabbi Marc Baker
About the Author
CJP President and CEO Rabbi Marc Baker is an educator, writer, and leadership mentor who is devoting his life to Jewish learning and building Jewish communities.