Shep Englander — Federation Journal
Finding Your Anchors in the New Year
This past year, in different ways, the pandemic has set us adrift in uncharted waters. We have lost some of our anchors—our routines, bumping into friends, or working alongside our colleagues.
Jewish holidays are anchors in time.
Rosh Hashanah anchors the year, giving us a framework to reflect on the past year and plan for the year to come, committing to what’s important. Part of that anchor’s strength is the physical—finding our seat, catching up in the hallway. This is the first year we can’t share a sanctuary with other congregants, see their children, or get a hug.
Fortunately, our resourceful rabbis and congregations have created safe ways to observe Rosh Hashanah during a pandemic. We have collected a guide to Rosh Hashanah resources for our community that you can find online here. It includes information about over 20 congregations from Orthodox to Humanistic.
Debbie Brant, our new Federation president, offered a poignant reflection about this year’s socially distanced Rosh Hashanah. “Perseverance. Strength. Hope. Resilience. This Rosh Hashanah we are celebrating all that, and more,” she said. “This year, we were able to come together as a community even when we were kept apart.”
Since March, we have also been denied the anchor of mourning our loved ones with our community. So the Federation worked with our rabbis and the Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati to produce a beautiful memorial video—remembering those we have lost during the pandemic. You will recognize some of the names. (Please find it here). It is truly a moving collaboration between numerous rabbis, which memorializes the loved ones we have lost during this difficult time in a way that is honoring, and that we can all share together.
Our Jewish values of compassion and tzedakah can also anchor us. Compassion is the reason we set up the COVID-19 hotline and found other ways to help. And the Federation tightened its belt—we reduced our staff by six and carved $500,000 out of our budget to use for COVID-related essential needs.
Despite these difficult times, I am confident that our community has a bright future. Our community has had many successes over the past decade. Looking forward, I know we have the potential to be one of the world’s most responsive, relevant, and inclusive Jewish communities.
This bright future is why the Federation has begun convening rabbis, experienced volunteers, knowledgeable professionals, and young innovators for the Cincinnati 2030 Committee. Drawing from the needs and opportunities in the 2019 Community Study, this new group will weave diverse perspectives together to develop fresh community values and vision. From that base, they will create goals and plan for our community’s future. As those are developed, we will seek your input and keep you up to date.
By giving your time, tzedakah, care and compassion, you anchor our whole community.
In the year ahead, may love and friendship keep your anchors strong. And may 5781 be a better year for our families, our community, and our world.
Jewish Federation of Cincinnati
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