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Let's Get Real at Yom Kippur...

10/11/2019 10:06:22 AM

Oct11

Greg Frost, President of Har HaShem Board of Trustees

I’d like to get real with you tonight. During these High Holy Days, we’re challenged to look deep within ourselves, to consider our actions and our relationships over the past year, and to think about how we want the year ahead to be different. What have we done right? Where we can do better? 

Thinking this way might lead us to feel a bit alone and lost. Does anyone really get me? Does anybody understand who I am and what I feel, what hurts me, what brings me joy? We all hunger to be known as we truly are. 

Martin Buber, the great Jewish thinker, put forth a profound thesis in his seminal book, I and Thou. He said: “All real living is meeting.” Our daily lives are filled with what Buber called I-and-It relationships: you are a means to an end for me, and nothing more. If we have only I-and-It relationships, then we will be like strangers to one another. Buber urges us to instead spire to build I-and-Thou relationships. I realize that the stranger in my midst is just like me. You are my equal. If I strive to understand what you are feeling and thinking, to know you as you truly are, and if you do the same, then we are no longer strangers, and now we are truly living. To Buber, the ultimate I-and-Thou relationship is between a person and God. 

Now as Jews, we believe that we are created in b'tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image. So, one way to know God is to know each other. In other words, real relationships are sacred relationships. Where do we find those sacred relationships? How do we begin them? How do we deepen them? I believe that’s what Har HaShem offers to us: a community committed to helping us create meaning in our lives by nurturing real and sacred relationships. 

Here’s one way that might happen. Maybe you start by coming to Friday night services sometimes, because you like the Rabbi’s sermons, you love Holli’s voice, or you like singing along with our house band, Or Zimrah. You want your kids to learn about Judaism, so you begin taking them to Sunday school. Since you’re already at the synagogue on Sunday mornings, you enroll in an adult education class that’s being offered at the same time. You have the most interesting conversations on what you’re learning, and in the process, you get to know your classmates. They’re a fun bunch. Someone invites you out for lunch, and then asks you to help with a project organized by the Tikkun Olam (or Social Action) committee. Next thing you know, you’re serving breakfast to 200 homeless folks. 

Meanwhile, someone else asks you to join a group having dinner after Shabbat evening services. You see each other again when dropping off your teens at a youth group event. Your kids are already close, because of the time they spend together at youth group, at Jewish summer camp, and on the Israel Study Tour. Before you know it, you’re on a river rafting trip with some of those families. And then, you’re called to the bimah when one of their daughters becomes bat mitzvah herself, and you’re lifting the Torah scroll high for all to see. 

Something happens to you: you’re sick, or your parents are, or perhaps you’re in a conflict with someone you care deeply about that you don’t know how to resolve. Those friends you’ve made here at HHS give you a hug, offer you kind words, bring you a meal, sit by your side, and help you figure out how to move forward. When something happens to one of your friends, you do the same for them. That’s when you realize that people at HHS really value you, and it hits you: you really care about this community.

This is my HHS story: my search for personal growth led me to take actions to make the world better. In turn, I developed a community of sacred relationships with lovely people who welcome and care for me. My story is just one of a thousand ways to understand Congregation HHS’s vision: Creating meaning in our lives through Jewish practice. I don’t know your story, but if you open yourself up to this community, you won’t be disappointed. 

  • Be inspired to realize your human potential. HHS is a spiritual center that offers many ways to engage spiritually, to study, to learn, and to grow. 

  • Add your voice as we work to make the world more just. Help HHS to feed the homeless, protect our environment, and engage in social advocacy. 

  • Join us as we celebrate together and lift each other up when we have fallen. Experience this caring community that offers an open tent and looks out for and supports each other. 

There is a brochure at your seats that details the many ways that you can experience HHS’s vision. I urge to read it, take it home with you, and use it to figure out how you’ll connect to our community. 

Now in this spirit of getting real with you, I’d like you to consider one more question tonight: How does HHS accomplish this wonderful vision? We all know that the synagogue has an incredible professional staff assisted by many dedicated volunteers. But the work of HHS also requires resources. I get it: talking about money, particularly on this most solemn of days, makes us feel uncomfortable. However, what I’m really talking about is support for our Jewish community. I’m not asking for me; I am asking for us. 

HHS is in a good budget position right now. As we move into the future, HHS needs to maintain that financial stability, while also having the ability to grow in the many ways that this congregation serves you. Congregants provide nearly all the financial support on which the synagogue depends. While your membership commitment and religious school tuition are critical pieces of that support, HHS also relies on direct fundraising from our members. 

We are so thankful for every single one of our many donors. We have been particularly blessed by two major gifts of a million dollars or more in the past few years. However, these gifts, while incredibly generous, will end in the next two years. So, we need your help to build HHS’s financial future. Every contribution matters. Everyone who participates makes our community stronger and helps HHS achieve the vision of creating meaning in our lives.

Please consider the many ways that you can support HHS: give to our Annual Campaign; purchase gifts for loved ones at the Chanukah Silent Auction; buy Purim gift baskets for your friends; enjoy brews and tunes at our Harmony and Hops festival; and designate a portion of your estate through our legacy giving program. 

So tonight, I’m asking you to spend this new year seeking out real, sacred relationships at HHS. You can build those relationships by showing up and getting involved. Ensure that HHS continues to nurture those relationships by stepping up and supporting our community. I particularly love seeing our younger members – that is, the ones with less gray hair than me – getting involved in the community. If you have gray hair like me, and you’ve been involved in the past, but it’s been awhile since you participated in the life of the synagogue: we miss you! Please come back. We need you all, because we are realizing this vision together. Ask me, a board member, our amazing staff, or our dedicated volunteers how you can support HHS. Make HHS a strong and healthy community that nurtures sacred relationships and brings meaning into your life. 

Thank you for your attention and for all that you give to HHS. May this be a sweet New Year to you all. 

Fri, December 13 2019 15 Kislev 5780