Sara Klein Wagner
We have become accustomed to tragedies.
Too often, we read and see news stories about hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires and other tragedies that tear apart communities in the blink of an eye.
Whenever these tragedies occur, such as this past weekend when Tropical Storm Henri struck the New England coast, first responders rush to the stricken areas to help.
But the COVID pandemic and climate crisis are very different.
Unlike a fast-moving storm that strikes a community and breaks up as it moves inland, COVID and climate change continue to hang over us and our planet.
We can’t clean up after these tragedies the way we can after a storm or wildfire. Instead, we must find ways to help each other and navigate a course for future generations along the way.
COVID and climate change are just two of the enormous topics that require a time for reflection and action. Elul, the Hebrew month leading up to Rosh Hashanah 5782, is just such a time.
Eighteen months ago, we took so many things for granted. Then the pandemic made us slow down and think about every aspect of our lives: How will I shop for groceries? Can I see my elderly parents? How do I get my work done while helping my kids go to school online?
We found creative ways to navigate the new reality, and we continue to experience heartbreak along the way.
As we approach the New Year, I am reflecting on areyvut – the Jewish value for caring unconditionally for one another. Areyvut is one of the four core values our Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) board of directors and staff chose several years ago to keep us centered on our purpose and mission.
Since that day back in March 2020 when we closed the Jewish Community Center (JCC), the effort and commitment of our JCL family of staff has been remarkable. I already knew how fortunate we were to work with a talented and passionate group of people, but in these past 18 months, every team member has shown me to what incredible lengths they will go to ensure that the individuals we serve have what they need to live more meaningful lives.
I ask you to take a few minutes to join me in acknowledging our JCL staff the next time you are at the JCC or interacting with a JCC or Federation team member.
This year, as I reflect on gratitude, my prayer is that we will all do our part in the coming year to keep others safe. Thank you to everyone who has been vaccinated to help care for each other unconditionally. It is not too late to make an appointment.
And let’s not forget that Rosh Hashanah celebrates the birthday of the world. In our struggle with climate change, we can each celebrate that birthday by doing a little more to improve our world: use the compost at the JCC garden or turn out the lights when you leave the room. For a list of ideas from Jewish Outdoor Food, Farming and Environmental Education (JOFEE), visit jofee.org/act/.
As we prepare for a sweet and healthy new year, we must accept that the two biggest issues facing our planet are not someone else’s problem to solve.
(Sara Klein Wagner is the president and CEO of the Jewish Community of Louisville.)