Finding Meaning Together

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, July 2, 2020

(excerpted from Rabbi Pollack’s AGM message)

At a time when we are acutely aware of the fragility of a world that is being severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all continuing to feel uncertainty, anxiety, and loss.

The world as we know it and interact with one another has changed. We worry about the loss of our livelihood, our loved ones, we mourn the way that some things had been, even as we embrace new ways of doing things, more time at home, more time to focus on what is essential and seeing the world around us in new ways.

In many ways, what we did before March of this year is a blur, a distant memory, it may even seem like a faraway dream. In my AGM address this past month, I shared with you just some of the photos of Solel that I have from this past year, a representative sample of some of the ways we as a Solel community have experienced, created, prayed and supported each other in our Jewish community, our Solel Jewish family in this past year.

These snapshots of our year show that we have a high level of engagement and participation in all aspects of our congregation – in our Bet Sefer Solel, our Adult learning and engagement offerings, Religious Services, Pastoral Care, Life Cycle Events, Social Action, Interfaith Engagement and Community Leadership. This has continued during the past four months in new and different ways. Once again, we have met and in many cases, exceeded our expectations.

Over the past 100+ days of isolation I have come to appreciate even more profoundly the treasures in our midst – the fact that at Solel we have social and spiritual and programmatic resources that are far more valuable than any bottom line on a financial ledger. Our staff, board and lay leadership and you, the members of our Solel family have repeatedly demonstrated during this difficult time their commitment to sustaining and increasing the importance and centrality of our congregation in their own lives and in the life of our greater community.

As we imagine what activity for our synagogue might look like in months to come, we are guided by these Jewish Values:

Pikuach nefesh – saving life. We will prioritize the safety of our staff and congregants, and the safety of those most vulnerable to infection, as well as general public health, in accordance with this core Jewish value.

B’tzelem Elohim – each person is created in the image of the Divine. No single person is any more or less valued than any other. We must be sure that we act in ways in which our staff and members do not feel discriminated against or unduly disadvantaged based on their health needs.

Hora’at sha’ah – emergent moments call for unique responses. We will need to come to terms with the fact that this crisis will be ongoing for some time, and that we will need to continue to change our expectations and operations. We will continue to explore online and virtual connectivity as a primary means of convening, as well as implement creative solutions to never-before-experienced challenges.

Lo titein michshol – do not place a stumbling block. We will not do anything that knowingly or willfully puts anyone in our midst at unnecessary risk.

Kol Yisrael arevim zeh l’zeh – We are all responsible for one another. It’s our job to look out for the mental and physical health and safety of one another. This notion of communal responsibility sits at the heart of everything we do, and we will strive to act in accordance with this value always.

What continues to be a source of strength, hope and resilience in these challenging times is the generations of wisdom of those who came before us. All of our Jewish life together, our values, our teachings, and our traditions form the foundation for what we have done and are continuing to do together as a congregation. The profound teachings of Jewish tradition on all levels – spiritual, emotional, pastoral, and community mission and vision give us hope and resilience and help all of us survive and thrive in this unprecedented time. Solel is here for you and will continue to grow and thrive in the future because of our dedication and commitment to Jewish life and Jewish living. In the midst of uncertainty and change, Jewish living, our Solel Jewish community, and the rhythms of our Jewish texts, history, and calendar provide us with opportunities to connect, support, and find meaning together.

Finally, a word about how fortunate I am to serve as your Rabbi. Of course, these past months have created new challenges for all of us. We have had to learn new skillsets overnight as we transformed our congregation into a virtual center of prayer, study, pastoral care and community. I believe that we have been successful so far – largely because of the partnerships we have – both lay and professional. I thank you for the gift of your confidence, and I know that when we emerge from our current situation things will be different. We will have new skills and perspectives as well as a greater appreciation for the strengths and holiness that make Solel such a unique and remarkable place. Wishing you all health and strength, hope and resilience!


Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

« Read more articles