Rabbi Johanna Hershenson’s Words of Hope
Calendar milestones, such as bringing in a new year, invite nostalgic memories of the past and idealistic hopes for the future.
I, myself, am satisfied having finished my Masters in Counseling program and I am finding my way to put my freshly honed skills to work. Mark has made incredible progress on our home on the ranch. Zoe graduated college and Abi is excelling in her second year in and out of the classroom. 2019 was a solid year for us.
The truth is that I am greatly concerned about 2020. It is an election year and I imagine it will be chock full of nastiness, divisiveness, and fear.
Discussing politics feels dangerous in congregational life. We, as a congregation, are a sum of many parts. Some of us are Republicans. Others, Democrats. And, statistically I imagine we have independents among us as well. We don’t want to offend or hurt one another. I appreciate our congregational ethos of caring about one another and I honestly believe we have a responsibility to be a safe place for all our members.
At the same time, I am feeling that if we cannot figure out how to discuss matters in life and in the world that concern us in congregational space, we are implicitly making our congregation irrelevant to our deepest concerns. For many in our congregation, concerns about climate, safety and security, and a functioning democracy keep us up at night. Temple Beth Tikvah should be a safe place for us to share our concerns and increase our understanding of one another. If we cannot accomplish this task in Temple Beth Tikvah, what hope can there be for accomplishing it in society at large?
My resolution for 2020 is to listen carefully and respond kindly and authentically. It seems to me that each of us has to seek understanding of matters outside our own points of view if we want our congregation and our society to evolve rather than devolve. Our conversations should be thoughtful, honest and respectful. I believe the “whole” of our congregation (and our country) is greater than the sum of its parts.
I believe that dynamic tension among the parts keeps us honest and within the bounds of what is best for the whole. Gandhi taught us to be the change we want to see in the world. The Talmud teaches us that we don’t have to solve all the problems but neither do we have a right to ignore them.
Wishing you a Happy New Year!