But if I am only for myself, who am I?
If not now, when?"
- Hillel, Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14
These lines are among my favorite Jewish texts so it is probably not surprising that social action has always resonated with me strongly as does Reform Judaism's directive to help repair the world. It is easy for all of us to fall into worrying first and foremost about ourselves, our loved ones and our friends, especially in tumultuous times, but Judaism absolutely calls upon us to consider the broader perspective as well. I feel blessed to have grown up, and to live, within a community with these values, a tradition that suggests we need to contemplate who we are if we stand for ourselves alone. On this topic and as we head toward the winter with its shorter days and increased darkness, I also love the saying credited to Eleanor Roosevelt: "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness."
As Jews, of course, we mark the transition from the secular week to Shabbat with the lighting of candles and, in another month, we will celebrate the victory of the Maccabees' fight for religious freedom by lighting the Menorah, bringing light to the darkness of winter. On the secular side, we are about to give thanks for all of our blessings next Thursday, followed by the more recent American traditions of Black Friday, Cyber Monday and - my personal favorite - Giving Tuesday, a day when we are encouraged to do for and give to others.
And in between this Shabbat and Thanksgiving, our Synagogue is holding our annual Mitzvah Day this Sunday November 20th starting at 9:00 a.m. - an opportunity to participate in some discrete, pre-packaged Tikkun Olam for all ages. Please join us in bringing some light to the world of those less fortunate, to supporting organizations important to (and in some instances created by) fellow congregants, and to helping to engage in Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) through these and other activities:
- Preparing food for the hungry: It is estimated that 200,000 Westchester residents are hungry or at risk of hunger. A third of these are children and another 22% are seniors.
- Preparing Soup in a Jar for seniors in the Bronx
- Making Holiday Cards for families of victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting or for residents of the Schaffer Extended Care Center
- Sharing your Travel Memory on the Trip of a Lifetime website (an organization created by a Scarsdale Synagogue Congregant which helps fund life-changing travel opportunities for underprivileged youths)
- Reading social-action themed books to children in the PJ Library corner
- Screening clips from the award-winning documentary "Living on One Dollar" and reading Jewish texts regarding poverty in the Sunday Social Action Salon with Rabbi Brown
- Participating in Karaoke for a Cause (back by popular demand!) benefiting The Trevor Project
- Getting into your downward dog with our Yoga and Reflection fundraiser benefiting the First Step Job Training Program
- Bringing in children's books or clothing, diapers and wipes, holiday gifts for My Sisters' Place shelter residents, food for the Food Bank, pet supplies for the New Rochelle Animal Shelter, Crafts and Games for Children's Hospital At Montefiore, Items for US Soldiers and Dorm Supplies for Grad Bag
Finally, if you, like me, are feeling a little bit overwhelmed by the potential implications of the recent election on a host of significant political and social justice issues, I encourage you to join me this Sunday for Mitzvah Day to 'Pray with our Feet', with our Hands, with each other...As the Hillel quote suggests, there is no time like NOW and I am confident that some Tikkun Olam will make us all feel better. Whatever your political perspective, there is undoubtedly work to be done!
Vice President, Board of Trustees of Scarsdale Synagogue Temples Tremont and Emanu-El