Thank you for supporting my visit to Israel last week, arming me with love packages, and eagerly listening to my reports upon return. Writing last week about my trip (see here if you missed the message) and then presenting this week to students, staff, and parents has been more powerful than I could have imagined. The purpose of the Shalom Hartman Institute mission for rabbis and day school leaders that I joined was to "volunteer through listening," as my friend Rav Shraga Bar On so beautifully articulated. Indeed, I could not believe how much people had to share and how grateful they were to have someone a couple of steps removed from their reality listen emphatically, without an agenda and interruption. When I returned, I was surprised to discover that I needed that exact sort of listening. Thank you for the gift you gave me of listening. And, for those interested in hearing what I heard and saw, I would be delighted to share further.
It is hard to maintain any perspective when times are as extreme as they are now. I have struggled to be present this week in the conversations and work that constitute the holy mundane aspects of running a Jewish organization and community. And, at the same time, one of the most inspiring things I witnessed over and over again during my time in Israel was just that- people functioning in normal life when nothing is normal: taking care of their families, communities, and country. This work involves grand questions and struggles, and it also involves a lot of logistics and behind-the-scenes work to hold together the core institutions of society: family, community, and country.
In the first week of December every year, we launch our annual end-of-the-year giving campaign, usually with a cute slogan like, "Whatever you do give 100%. Except if you are giving blood." I LOVE fundraising for Beit Rabban. To me, it is an opportunity to bring other people into the mitzvah of sustaining our magical education. And, I believe that Jewish education is the cornerstone of Jewish continuity. Generally, I enjoy this "holy mundane" work as much as I enjoy teaching my weekly eighth-grade class or joining the preschool for daily tefillah. But this year, it is a little harder for me to bring joy to the task of asking others to donate. The Jewish people are suffering, and the Israeli people are suffering. Over the last two months, I have often felt like all other needs pale in comparison to this reality.
And, of course, we do need to care for all the mundane details- budgets, schedules, facilities- of our critical institutions at times like these just as we always do. In fact, our anchor institutions are all the more important to us when we are in crisis. Jewish day school is the foundation of our community and also foundational to building the future we want for our children and people. We have to make sure not to neglect it now. To the contrary, we need to strengthen it.
This year, I ask you to dig deep to support Beit Rabban in our end-of-year fundraising campaign. I turn to you with humility and urgency, and I invite you to share in the mitzvah of sustaining this magical and holy school and community.
As we enter this Shabbat Chanukah, I am reminding myself that a small light shines incredibly bright when lit in complete darkness. There are so many people igniting small lights at this moment. May we notice these lights, embrace them for their brightness, and use them to spark infinitely more lights.
כּל אחד הוא אור קטןֽ וכּולנו אור איתןִ
Every individual is a small light. Together we are a strong light.