President’s Post – December 2017

Speak and Be Heard

Eric Imley & Gale Swartz, Co-Presidents

Communication is the foundation of community—both words come to English from the Latin word ‘communis’, meaning “shared by all or many.” This same idea is transmitted in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers) where it is taught: “…two who sit and have words of Torah between them, the Divine Presence is between them…” (Avot 3:2).

As Rabbi Justin Goldstein writes, “When seeking to establish a community grounded in values and decency, it becomes easy to view those who share a different perspective as an enemy or an adversary. Jewish tradition comes and pushes us to see beyond this black-and-white dichotomy—to step into the gray and learn what discernible truths there may be, or perhaps especially, in those viewpoints that contradict our own.”

In our own microcosm of Temple Beth El, there are many opportunities to both speak and be heard; to see and be seen. Some of them are: Taus Lecture Series, Coffee Talk with Rabbi Briskin, Social Action/Justice Events, Sisterhood Book Club, Thursday Torah Study, Dawn Unity Group, South Coast Interfaith Council, Lay-led Shabbat and Study, Torah on the Trails, volunteering in the Caring Community program. There are other opportunities on the lighter side to come together and have social intercourse and communal participation: Cultural Arts Programs such as Art of Community, Cooking with the Cantor, the newly forming Sunday Morning Mah Jongg drop-in, ROMEOS and Jewliettes, and yes, the highly acclaimed Pastries with the Presidents!

How do I, as a member of this sacred community, communicate with others to continue to make our TBE family warm, open, inviting, safe in expression and thought? Do I support and participate in the many programs? Do I come here to engage with others and share thoughts and opinions? Am I giving of myself, my resources, my energies, my love and respect? Do I provide suggestions for improvement in a caring and respectful way? Do I share ideas to strengthen our community for others to become involved whether purely social and fun, making our world a better place, or both at the same time?

Rooted in the Torah’s teachings and bonded in our Jewish values it is our obligation to commit to open dialogue and communication grounded in decency and respect. With all of today’s time demands, we need to take a moment to remember that our community is “shared by all or many.” All of our opinions are valid. We all have the best interest of Temple Beth El at heart. This diversity of thought is a strength that should be treasured. It is precisely in the gray area of varied viewpoints in which we will find, in the words of Pirkei Avot, the Divine Presence.