Sara Klein Wagner
The Jewish new year sounds like a fresh beginning, a new start. It is reassurance during strange times that the Jewish calendar remains a constant in the world. The cycle of holidays, festivals and Shabbat create a rhythm and reminder that the seasons will come and go as they always have.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, many people have shared that they often lose track of the days and weeks. Those working from home have lost the transition and distinction between work time and workspace with limited boundaries. While most of us are not spending the High Holy Days together with friendly hugs, kisses and handshakes or wishing a shana tova (a good year) in person, the rituals of this moment remain. The reflection on the past year, asking those we wronged for forgiveness and thinking about the year ahead, is still so relevant.
Sept. 17 marked my 30-year work anniversary since I returned to Louisville, excited and nervous to become the community relations director at the Jewish Federation. I began my new position just three days before Rosh Hashanah. Each High Holy Day season since 1990, I consciously take time to consider both my personal and communal reflections and renew.
I am not alone in my personal loss this past year. My sweet and kind dad, age 94, passed away just as COVID-19 began to change our lives. He cared so deeply about Jewish life and Jewish community that it has made my work life that much more poignant as our Federation and JCC staff and volunteers have navigated through the past seven months. We try our best every day to fulfill our vision: Inspiring meaningful lives while transforming our Jewish future. This vision has remained a guidepost during this period.
Last Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper, we could not have imagined the year ahead. A global pandemic, hurricanes, devastating wildfires and calls for racial justice that cannot be ignored. Remarkably, our Jewish community allows us to pause and celebrate a new year filled with hopes and dreams. As always, we let go of what went wrong; we honor the sweetness of life and we make plans to do better, to listen wholeheartedly, to take responsibility and to make our world better.
Over the past seven months, I have been inspired by our Federation and JCC staff and volunteers for their ability to serve the community. Together, we have delivered 10,600 meals to seniors, provided a respite from isolation through virtual and in-person fitness classes, hosted numerous online events to bring people together for learning and gathered our youngest children back together for preschool.
We have also provided a sense of normalcy for summer campers and quickly created an extension of camp for children to attend non-traditional virtual learning at the JCC.
I am also so proud of our Jewish community for coming together to raise and distribute over $420,000 through the United Jewish Louisville Rapid Response Fund. Together, with the generosity of the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence and generous donors, we granted these dollars to 13 Jewish agencies, schools and congregations to assist during the pandemic.
As I reflect on the year that just ended, I am grateful to each of you. During the most difficult of times, I am humbled by the effort and determination of our team to provide love and care and meaning to so many lives.
L’shana tova. May 5781 be a year that brings health and happiness to us all.
(Sara Klein Wagner is the president & CEO of the Jewish Community of Louisville.)