As I write my final article as JCA Executive Director, I have a flood of reflections, memories and thoughts I want to share with all of you. I remember that really early in my tenure as director, the Charlie Hebdo murders took place in Paris and I struggled to find the words that I thought I needed to share with the community. Too many times over the almost three years that I have been in my position at the J, I have written about tragedies in our country and overseas. I have relied on our CRC (Community Relations Council), as I did last week, to develop an appropriate message related to the tragedy in Charlottesville. We are all struggling to find appropriate responses in prayers, words and actions that can make a positive difference.
The tasks are indeed challenging and sometimes overwhelming. The wisdom of our sages in Pirkai Avot tells us that Rabbi Tarfon advises, “You are not obligated to complete the task, nor are you free to abandon it.” We all struggle to find the balance that will enable us to be loving partners and parents, caring friends, competent, engaged professionals, committed community members along with the multiple other roles and functions we fill. How can we manage it all? I do not suggest that I have any answers to the difficult questions I am posing – especially in light of the complex and upsetting issues presenting themselves right now.
It is difficult to move from this wide, wide lens to the microcosm that is the JCA, and yet it is valid to point out that the opportunity to belong is essential to each of us as that sense of belonging gives us an environment in which to explore these difficult questions and a space in which we can make meaningful connections. Daily in the interactions I watch among both parents and children in the Goldman Family Preschool, the dialogues of our board and committees as they wrestle with important concerns, the grappling with tradition and ethics that infuses every class I have taught, the fellowship and positive relationships and values that emerge from CDC experiences, the commitment to healing the world evidenced by the food pantry volunteers of Jewish Family Services, the comradery and commitment to mission evidenced by our entire staff, each of these gives meaning to our lives and helps us to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
As I get ready to pack up my office and return to my life as a community member, I look forward to participating with all of you on September 10th as we celebrate the grand opening of our new building. And what an amazing building it is: environmentally conscious, efficient and glorious with its Dorothy Levine Alfond and Ellen Jacobson Loring Memorial Playground for our preschoolers that will make you wish you were a kid again. Most important, I think, is the pride it gives to our entire community, publically proclaiming the presence of a Jewish Community Alliance that will bring together community members in meaningful programs, that will welcome newcomers and visitors to Portland, where we will work together to raise funds that will serve both our community and programs overseas and in Israel, that will give us all a place to discuss the confounding and difficult issues besetting us in today’s society, a place where we can be together, b’yachad , and seek and, hopefully, find some answers in companionship, friendship and community.
Thank you all for the gift you have given me in enabling me to have a part in bringing this extraordinary project to completion, or rather, to the new place from which our community can build and grow going from strength to strength.