Last week, on December 21, we experienced the shortest day of the year. Now, slowly and subtly, light is beginning to filter back into our lives. It is my fervent hope that by the time we gather in Palm Beach from March 27-29, the days will be longer and brighter.
This great plague has been the universal experience of mankind during these last 21 months. Too many died and suffered, too many experienced pain and hunger, and all of us experienced isolation and uncertainty. Although today a new variant of infection is again ravaging the country, all indications are that our greater knowledge and increasing levels of vaccination are helping us to cope better than when we first encountered this deadly disease. Will we at last see the light at the end of this tunnel?
Here at JFN, we quickly pivoted last year to confront the challenges of this pandemic. We were the first major Jewish organization to move our signature annual conference online, finding ways to bring our community together despite lockdowns. Our members involved themselves in providing much-needed food and medical supplies to those in need. Others found ways to comfort and connect with the elderly and other vulnerable and lonely populations. We confronted the mental health challenges emanating from this worldwide scourge, and we created methodologies for other Jewish organizations to use to analyze the needs of the future and to begin to prepare.
My term as Chair of JFN began in the Covid darkness. And yet, for me, this year and a half has been a time of deep gratitude. It seems fitting that the two holidays that we celebrated most recently are Thanksgiving and Chanukah. Gratitude and light. Although Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American holiday, the origin of the Hebrew word for Jew, yehudi, is a form of the Hebrew word for “thank you,” todah! Judaism means “the path of gratitude.” In addition to calling ourselves “the people of the book,” we could also call ourselves “the grateful people, the people of the thank you.”
My own gratitude has been experienced in both big and small ways. Every morning I woke up grateful to be healthy. Finding ways to live in our new reality, I found myself grateful, on my daily walks, for birds and trees and flowers. I am grateful that this pandemic happened at a time when technology was so advanced that we could find ways to connect despite the obstacles.
But most of all, I am grateful that I am in a position to help others. I am grateful that my life could be full of doing good work, and of giving back to others. So, in many ways, I guess I can say, that I am most grateful to you, the JFN community, and to the opportunity that you have given me to serve and to work with such a remarkable group of people.
And now, as the days get longer, we will be celebrating the secular New Year. May 2022 be a great and healthy year!
I hope you will all be able to join me in person in Palm Beach on March 27-29. Registration opens on January 4.
Know that we are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our community, and if Covid prevents us from meeting in person, conference fees will be fully refundable. Please check your email and help to make our New Year a true beacon of light.
Marcia Riklis is JFN's Board Chair.Share