Faith is the courage to take a risk for the sake of God or the Jewish people; to begin a journey to a distant destination knowing that there will be hazards along the way, but knowing also that God is with us, giving us strength if we align our will with [God’s]. Faith is not certainty, but the courage to live with uncertainty.
– Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z’l
Last week’s Torah portion focused on the story of Noah and his family, and I have found myself returning to the narrative of a cataclysmic flood repeatedly since then. There is so much about which to be concerned, so much to fear and worry about in this time. We are flooded with information, stimulus, and impetus constantly, and can struggle to find a place for our nervous, righteous, frustrated energy.
In recent weeks, we have been exposed to waves of antisemitism in popular media and the political sphere and have seen only a muted response from public officials, colleagues, and even friends. The Israeli elections this week signaled a sea change, with political power flowing to the hard right, and the inclusion of extremists in positions of influence in ways that concern many within and outside of the country. As we get closer to the US elections next week, we face questions about safety during the voting process and ensuring the peaceful transition of power. And yesterday, we received information related to a “credible” security threat against synagogues in New Jersey (and, thankfully, awoke this morning to news that the threat was neutralized and the suspect was in custody).
This is a time of great change and upheaval. But that does not relieve us of the responsibility to act. Here at the JCA, we are working to build stronger coalitions, through our Community Relations Council, to help combat antisemitism more effectively here in Maine, and to support civic engagement and voter education. We are strengthening security systems and supporting local synagogues and partner agencies in developing safety measures and improved communication. We are helping the parents of Goldman Family Preschool students raise children who understand the precious value of human life, human dignity, and Judaism – so that whatever their political, religious, or cultural identities may be in the future, they will be built on the strongest possible foundations. And our HIAS program is welcoming the newest Mainers, refugees who arrive on our shores holding tight to their dreams of a just, peaceful, and prosperous future.
As we approach Shabbat Lech Lecha and a November weekend that promises 70-degree weather here in Maine, may we all find the strength and energy to honor and preserve what is most important, and to step forward into uncertainty with faith.