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Tonight is the 22nd day of the Omer count, and its message is Love within Vision.

The counting of the omer is a spiritual journey from Passover to Shavuot, from the exodus to the receiving of the Torah.

Which is fitting, because I just finished a vision quest journey in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with a small group of women who gathered from across the United States. Some came alone, some with a friend. Three were widowed within the past 18 months. One was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Four graduated from college together 35 years ago. One was 42 years old, one 76.

Each of us was searching for something different as we explored the mountains, deserts, plateaus, and cities of this beautiful and unforgiving landscape 7,000 feet above sea level.

During the journey we met indigenous people from the local Pueblos and reservations. The more I heard the stories of these people, the ones I grew up calling American Indians, the more I realized that theirs is strikingly similar to the history of my own people. Stories of persecution, of trauma, of unearned hatred, as if they were not human, not deserving of respect, not valued for the gifts they brought to the world. Stories of genocide and cruelty and ugly death. Of children being torn from their parents, and wise elders lost forever.

We teach our stories to our children, so that our past is not forgotten, but we are wise enough to know that there is more to peoplehood than our tragic pasts. We celebrate and keep our cultures alive through art, music, food, and stories. Especially our stories.

We met a healer who said this: “The river of time runs very fast. You cannot hold onto the bank. You will get swept away.” But, she continued, we can flow with the river, bringing with us that which is good and beautiful, all that we will need to create a better future for the planet and the peoples who dwell on it.

Although we do not forget, we never can forget, the indigenous peoples of the American Southwest and the Jews of the world share a common trait, a startlingly beautiful belief in the power of family and community, and a common bond of hope.