This past calendar year has seen highs and lows, moments that inspired hope, and some that made us want to despair. I was thinking recently about how challenging it can feel to see the good around us when I heard a beautiful quote from Rachel Held Evans’ book, Wholehearted Faith. She wrote:
"On the days when I believe, the sun streaks across these East Tennessee hills, showing me that green isn’t one color but a million. The infinite deep blue of the sky feels less like an endless void ready to swallow me whole than an open and generous invitation, beckoning all of us who are prone to wander."
When we believe — in ourselves, in one another, in possibilities — we actually see the world differently. That which can feel overwhelming can invite us to learn, to act, to experience the world in new ways.
Over these past few months (pre-Omicron) — whether in small meetings, visiting schools, celebrating milestones, or gathering for public Hanukkah candle lightings — I’ve been fortunate to reconnect in person with many of you and see firsthand the hope, resilience, and joy of our community. Being with you and experiencing these moments is why I love this work so much.
I am now halfway through my fourth year at CJP, and I continue to be inspired by the extraordinary people around me and by the diversity, strength, and vibrancy of our Greater Boston community. I see engagement with all forms of Jewish life, the pursuit of justice and care for those in need in our community and beyond, and strong relationships with Israel and Jewish People around the world. I see love of learning, joy in Jewish practice, and extraordinary professional and volunteer leadership at all levels of communal and organizational life. I also see in our community a beautiful combination of head and heart, a drive for excellence in service — not of individuals’ egos and agendas — but rather of the greater good.
Last week, we began the Book of Exodus, which features the famous scene of Moses and the burning bush. Moses was wandering through the wilderness when he saw a wonder of nature — a bush that was burning yet not being consumed. He slowed down, turned toward it, and saw something miraculous which, most likely, many others would have simply passed by. And then he heard God calling him to action and his life’s work.
Like Evans' quote, this story reminds us that seeing and believing are intimately connected. When we slow down enough to look, and when we believe that there is more to our world than meets the eye, our capacity to see is limitless.
We are striving to be a community where everyone sees, and everyone can be seen. These are the ethical and spiritual foundations of a compassionate, just, and vibrant community of belonging. That’s the kind of community I want to be part of and that I believe we’re creating together. Thank you.
Shabbat Shalom and I look forward to seeing you in 2022,
Rabbi Marc Baker
P.S. If you have seen the power of this community and the work that CJP does every day — thanks to your support and partnership — please consider making a year-end gift to our Annual Campaign. Every gift matters, and we could not do this work without you.
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.