I began writing this column on Thanksgiving Day for the January 2020, newsletter. Later today, most of our family will be able to gather for dinner. My wife and I have talked to our children who live out of state. We may not be physically in one place; we can be emotionally connected.
During the run up to Thanksgiving, I have read several articles and listened to different radio or internet programs discussing how to handle potentially controversial issues within the family at the holiday dinner table. There was also a program on family estrangement, where a family member(s) is estranged from another member(s) of the family, and how that may be reconciled. It is a fact of life that we do not always agree with all the members of our respective families. And it is sad when that reaches a point where members are estranged from each other and do not wish to talk, let alone be in each others’ company.
Listening and reading about these situations, I realized that the Etz Chaim community is also a ‘family’ of sorts. It is important for each of us to recognize that our strength and health as a community requires us to remember and focus on those things that we have in common and that bring us together. While there is some variance between individuals, I believe that our commonality is the fact that our members, whether Jewish or not, made the decision to support our Jewish community, value a Jewish lifestyle, want our children exposed to Jewish traditions and education, and rely on the synagogue community to support us and our families in major life events: Births, B’nai Mitzvahs, marriage, illness, and death. These are common for our families.
The coming year, 2020, promises to be a contentious year in our nation with national elections in November. If we are listening to the news or reading about it on the internet or in print media, we will be exposed to all sorts of information. I am sure that all of us will be forming opinions of what we are hearing based on a number of factors. I also expect that we will be at varying places along the political spectrum. It is important to remember that disagreements will occur between family, friends, and congregational members. We can disagree. It is important that we disagree in a manner that acknowledges the other person’s right to have different opinions than ourselves. Since we do not live in a majority Jewish area, the community that makes up Congregation Etz Chaim is a key factor in maintaining a Jewish center of life for us in the western suburbs. As we move through 2020, it important to our religious community that each of us speaks and acts respectfully to one another. It is important that we continue as a unified and strong congregation for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, and those who will continue supporting Congregation Etz Chaim for another 60 years.