Last Saturday night, at CJP’s annual Chai in the Hub event, we celebrated 12 young professional and volunteer leaders — a group that includes rabbis, educators, doctors, entrepreneurs, and more — who are making a difference in our community. More than 450 young adults gathered to connect with one another, to learn about CJP’s work, and just to have fun.
The energy throughout the night and the diversity in the room were incredible. I encourage you to check out the photos of the evening to get a sense of the excitement.
Many in the Jewish community lament and wonder what will be with our next generation? Worrying about whether we will successfully pass on our values and heritage to our children has been a time-honored Jewish tradition since the first generation of Israelites left Egypt! But seeing a night like this, as I looked out at a packed house of young adults who understand the values of tzedakah (charity) and kehillah (community), and who show up for one another, gave me hope that our future is in good hands.
At the event, I shared the remarks below, inspired by a Talmudic story, about the importance of this moment in history and the responsibility and opportunity for their generation to take the future in their hands. I hope you enjoy!
Rabbi Marc Baker
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Chai in the Hub 2020
As I was thinking about this awesome party — about why we’re here tonight and why you matter so much to CJP and to our community — I came across a Jewish story about a party that took place almost 2,000 years ago (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berachot 31a).
It was a wedding of the son of a rabbi. The rabbi noticed that the guests, all the other rabbis, were “excessively cheerful” – a euphemism for partying too hard. I guess those rabbis could get out of hand!
What did he do? He brought out a super-expensive glass and smashed it in front of them. As a result, they mellowed out. (By the way, this might be one of the sources for the breaking of the glass at a Jewish wedding.)
In the Talmud, this story is told in connection with an enigmatic phrase found in the Book of Psalms (2:11) which says to “rejoice with trepidation or trembling (gilu b’ra’adah).” What a strange phrase: What does it mean to rejoice with trembling? Am I joyous or am I afraid? In other words, is this a party or what?
Then I realized that this story and this strange phrase from the Book of Psalms help explain what we’re doing here tonight.
In a world that can feel so broken, in which many of us are carrying around concern and a sense of responsibility for so many problems, we should remember that it’s okay to lighten up and have fun. In the Jewish tradition, we’re not only allowed to have fun; it’s a mitzvah!
Judaism loves a party. Whether weddings, bar mitzvahs, or Chai in the Hub, it’s about community, connection, celebration, and it’s about fun.
At the same time, it’s not just fun for fun’s sake. I think the rabbi in this story is trying to say: party with purpose.
What does that mean?
It means that fun, celebration, and joy are the foundations upon which we create community. They give us the energy, inspiration, and strength to do the serious work of making the world better.
Breaking that glass reminds us that even as we’re partying in here, there is real work to do out there. Just thinking about the brokeness that so many millennials are working to address: the health of our democracy, environmental sustainability, racial justice, gender equity, rising antisemitism, and other forms of hatred and bigotry, deepening divisions and polarization both within our community and between American Jews and Israelis — to name a few. And what about the future of Jewish life? Will we get stronger, more committed, more educated, more inspired? What will you pass on to your children?
Tonight, we shine a light on 12 leaders in our community who are doing this important work every day and who remind all of us that the future is in our hands. We talk a lot about the next generation. But the truth is: You are the generation. The time is now.
I think of Chai in the Hub as a microcosm of what CJP is all about: a party with a purpose — building joyous, inspired, and fun communities of people who mobilize to do important and impactful work together. We need you, your time, your talent, your energy, and your generosity. I hope that’s why you’re here tonight, and I hope you’re in it with us for many, many years to come.
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.