This week, I am going to write about terms that are being thrown around in an unfortunate way: “opting out” or “taking a break.”
In choosing whether to belong to a synagogue or support nonprofit institutions, many are deciding to take a “year off” and consider rejoining the following year. Jewish professionals across the world are reaching out to colleagues and peers, understanding that if enough people decide to opt out, the Jewish world that once was will never look the same. The Jewish world that once was will not have a solid foundation to rebuild and reconstruct in the innovative, vibrant, spiritually uplifting ways we so desperately need. With each person that decides to “sit this one out” means a chipping away of the Jewish homes thousands rely upon for comfort, solace, celebration, companionship and connection.
The COVID-19 era has devastated the world — stolen lives, impaired people’s health, injured financially, stricken mentally and emotionally. There are many who cannot afford to rejoin our communities, yet these are the members of our faith communities who must hear our support and feel our love.
But for those in our communities that question the spiritual nourishment of online services, feel disconnected without in-person gathering, and have the means to continue to join sacred communities, my plea is to you. A real community is one that upholds those who have fallen. A true community exists even when times are difficult and scary. A sincere community is choosing to remain active as the world falls apart.
Phrases like “opting out” or “taking a break” don’t exist when you see yourself as a spark of a greater light that penetrates the darkest corners of this world. Staying a member of a community is a covenant, a promise to God and one another that you will step up when your voice is needed. And if you find yourself not currently in a community, we welcome you to join one, strengthening all of our souls during these moments of great uncertainly and fear.
Hillel wisely said, “Do not separate yourself from the community.” Look deep inside your soul. We need you. We need one another. Next year and years after, may we look back at this time in which we saw humanity join hand in hand, lifting one another, letting our fellow Jews know that together, we are not alone.