Making Progress … Progress Needed

By David Cohen

With spring just ahead, our community’s focus will soon turn to a series of holidays that remind us of both the joys of being Jewish and the trials of what it means to be Jewish in today’s world.

During Purim, we will dress up and celebrate Esther and Mordecai’s leadership – and lament their need to be leaders in their moment of Jewish struggle.  Before Purim, during Shabbat Zachor, we will read of Amelek and his unique brand of evil, in having focused his hate and anger on those weakest among the Israelites as they made their Exodus out of Egypt.  And of course – I will say here - that this will also focus some on what is happening in Gaza.  There is no avoiding that comparison and, that too, we will struggle with.

And of course, this is the season we focus on how our families come together in a scene unlike any other in our tradition - when learning moves from the synagogue to the seder table.  And yet, that celebration of family and food recounts a tale of bondage, liberation, rebellion, and ultimately - nationhood. 

It will be a busy spring that will lead to our remembrance of the Shoah, the commemoration of those killed in Israel’s struggle for survival, and the moment of Independence for the modern State of Israel  (Yom HaShoah, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Haatzmaut).

It is a lot.  And outside of our days of awe, this season brings out much of who we are and who we have become as a global people, as a diaspora in North America, and as a new and evolving nation in our ancient homeland.

The question is – as we approach these important holidays – are we fully ready to embrace them while the tragedy in Israel and Gaza still sits with us every day?

I used the term “progress” in the title of this article twice in the spirit of Torah, which instills great meaning in mentioning things twice, such as with “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdoff (Justice, Justice you shall pursue).”Many scholars translate this as “must” rather than “shall” because the word “Tzedek” is listed twice.  So too, I believe progress is deserving of the same emphasis.

Progress.  I am immensely proud of the work our community has done in the past five months to come together around Israel.  Yet, I know that there is work still to be done, progress to be made, on how we include all voices in our conversation.  As someone who has worked for years on peace initiatives and shared society efforts in Israel, it pains me as it does others that these efforts have been almost shuttered by this war.   I, for one, want to find a way to both advocate for the return of our hostages and rekindle the hope for much-needed “progress” toward a much-needed two-state framework. 

Progress.  It has been a privilege to join this community and roll up my sleeves to help build a better Federation for the community and a new and innovative JCC for our members.  There are wonderful and committed board members and community leaders – just as there is an incredibly hardworking and dedicated staff.  Partnering with and helping to lead both has been a gratifying work in progress – and yet – there is so much yet to be done.  So much progress has yet to be made.  We have already made significant strides to move our Silver Academy and our ELC to our new Grass Campus and our flexible and accommodating JFGH and JCC staff have been working hard to support both campuses.  And now, I can say with some confidence that our JFS will likely be in place in their new home in April, our Foundation will be in their new home in July, and our NEW Fitness Center is slated to open around Memorial Day.  Again, great strides, and great progress, with work still to be done to bring new and vibrant programming to the campus and the wider community. 

With prayers for a spring filled with celebration and peace.
With hope for a spring filled with family and fun.
With a longing for eternal springs filled with love rather than hate, bias, and prejudice.

Let us commit ourselves this spring to building community, to looking for unity even among difference, and to finding connections and relationships in the real world as much as we possibly can.