Working in the Jewish community provides me with so much good fortune. One of the most nurturing benefits is sharing with colleagues how we all celebrate the holidays – Jews and non-Jews. As Passover approaches, it has allowed me to think about what Passover brings to my life. Passover is such an incredible holiday to start anew. Like the New Year, it allows me to cleanse a piece of my life, find a new beginning and take time to regroup. Here are some thoughts as we begin to celebrate Passover tomorrow:
Looking Back – There are great lessons to be learned from stories of our past. Whether we are looking back at our ancestors who crossed the Red Sea, at what the Jewish people have endured in the past century, the arts that we have created, the medical and science advances we've made or even how different we all express our Judaism, it is important to learn about our history and to cherish it. Not always beautiful and not always horrific, we must remember both and pass them onto the next generation. Often I watch the show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” which researches the ancestry of celebrities. I love that the name of the show is in present tense and it allows you to look into your past. I always wonder what my family history would show if I delved into my family history. I think something extraordinary happens to you when you can walk the streets that your ancestors walked or find out how they lived, survived or fought for something they believed.
Looking Forward – It takes great faith to carry on every day. Though our ancestors lived enslaved, they hoped for a better future. After the Holocaust, our community said, “Never again.” So many of us work towards personal freedom from some modern day enslavements – financial crisis, body image, family loss, sickness or broken relationship. At the same time, we also work to educate, protect or even liberate people. Almost two years ago, I visited the Jewish communities of Vilnius, Lithuania and Riga, Latvia. While devastated by the murderous acts of WWII, the next generation are taking hold of their Jewish identity and rebuilding their community. Sitting next to a 20-something newlywed who was about to embark on a 4-month immersion leadership program in Israel, I asked her, “Do you want to move to Israel?” She looked at me with a wonderful glimmer of pride and commitment and said, “No, I want to come back here, this is my home.” I will not forget how inspired I was in that moment knowing that the future of the Jewish community in Vilnius, Lithuania was in her hands. This past November, while on a mission to Israel, I visited a pre-school with Ethiopian students. Their families suffered and survived to get to Israel. They look towards the future with a drastically different perspective than I and I am grateful that the Jewish community helped them fulfill their dream of coming to Israel.
Why Me? A friend and I were talking today and wondered out loud, “What is our purpose here?” We were remembering a donor who passed away last year at the young age of 57. He had big dreams of living a long life with his wife and kids and of giving away $50 million dollars. Why would he be taken when he had some much more to do with his family and for his community? One of my colleagues said today that as we approach the holiday we often think of those who are not here to celebrate with us and I think he is right. My dad was someone who loved having his family all around the table – any table, home or restaurant. He simply enjoyed celebrating with his family around the table. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I enjoyed watching the pure enjoyment on his face. As we celebrate tomorrow night, I will remember those who are not with us. I will use their memory to inspire me, guide me and lead me to be better than I was yesterday.
Wishing everyone a wonderful Passover and may this week bring you renewal, vision, and lasting memories.