By Laura Seymour
It is past our High Holiday New Year’s resolutions (and hopefully we have kept some of them), but here is another time to reflect and make some changes. These past months have been difficult wondering how we should show our Jewish identity to the world. Each person must decide and together we can feel strong and confident in proclaiming who we are. I was looking through various “old suggestions” on who we should be “Jewishly.” This has more to do with our internal goals to grow. The JCC Association of North America in approximately 1985 wrote a piece for J staff defining ways to be a Jewish worker. These are definitely a good start to creating our own path of what kind of person we want to be:
A learning person — Talmud Torah k’neged kulam — The virtue of study is as great as all other virtues: Learning is one of the cornerstones of human existence according to Judaism, plus learning has no beginning or end and it is not limited to any age or period in one’s life.
A literate person — V’ten helkeynu — Give us our part in the great enterprise of Torah: Judaism is a vast treasure of events, sources, ideas, beliefs and practices. We should learn about this amazing heritage that is ours. We should be literate in Jewish as well as general culture.
A person with a distinctive lifestyle — Lo hamidrash haikar ela hamaaseh — Deeds, not study, are the essence: Judaism is not just study or talk — it is as much or more about actions. We should look to create a Jewish lifestyle with specifically Jewish behaviors.
A valuing person — Higid lecha adam — He has told you what is good and what the Lord requires of you: only to do justice, to love goodness and to walk humbly with your G-d: Judaism encompasses the commitment to great human values. Justice, concern for others, the dignity of the individual, family, loving kindness, equality, caring — how do we demonstrate those values in our lives?
A searching person — Hafoch bo v’hafoch bo dechula bo — Turn the Torah over and over, because everything is in it: Judaism encourages questioning, reflection and individual search. Ask questions, listen to many perspectives, seek answers and look to others.
A caring person — V’ahavta l’reacha kamocha — You should love others as yourself: Caring for others is the ultimate virtue that we must all practice. We must reach out to others, be concerned for their lives and enjoy their human qualities.
Can we be all these things? It is a lot to strive toward, but this New Year think about who you want to be in every aspect of your life and then how to show it to the world. One of the “Words of the Year” was “authentic” — how do we strive to be the person we are and share that with all? And take the time before Jan. 1 to think and write down what your goals are for the year. Putting something in writing gives it realness and then we can look back on it from time to time (don’t wait until the following year).
Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.