Five years is a long time, especially if you’ve made major life changes. In July 2014 I began writing weekly emails to my congregation. I was part-way through my rabbinical school training and away from home when several tragedies happened in the same week. I decided to write to the congregation, and I’ve never stopped since. That first year, I wrote to them the day after Christmas, just as I did this year.
Out of curiosity I looked up my email from that week, and I was pleased that although I have changed quite a bit, my message from 2014 is exactly how I feel today:
“What I find inspiring about Christmas is its message that transcends the specifics of the story of Jesus’s birth, just as Hanukah transcends the specifics of the Maccabees’ story. Christmas is about hoping for peace on earth, goodwill towards humankind… In our liturgy we too include prayers for a better world, and a time of universal peace… The Christmas message is sometimes drowned out by the noise of commercialism. That doesn’t make it any less important, or less relevant to Christians and non-Christians alike.
“To those in our KH community who celebrated Christmas yesterday, I hope that your day was filled with light and joy and love, and that your prayers for peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind are answered soon, and in our day. “
I still believe that when we are open-minded about the beliefs of others, we can learn so much about our neighbors. And ourselves.
And I am worried. I worry that we are not doing enough. That I am not doing enough to make this world a better place. Fortunately, I am not alone in that either, and two women who share my desire to make the world a better place — or at least improve our little corner of it — have joined with me.
One is an Episcopal priest. One is a lay leader at the local mosque. I am a rabbi. Together, we will visit our three congregations and each of us will tell about our tradition’s various understandings of our shared patriarch Abraham.
Being impatient, we’re beginning almost immediately. Our hope is for our personal and professional relationships to blossom, and to bring the members of our congregations together.
I pray that in the next five years I will be able to say that three women; a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim, were able to change the course of hundreds upon hundreds of lives, simply by becoming friends.
This is a version of the email that I sent tonight to my beloved Congregation Kol HaNeshama of Sarasota Florida.