By Rabbi Joy D. Levitt
For those of us who have the privilege and responsibility of overseeing large communal institutions, these last six months have been fraught, to say the least. But let me cut to the chase. It is not too soon to be filled with gratitude. Indeed, this is the time to acknowledge our thanks.
It is not too early to express our gratitude to the staff that has stuck with us through these uncertain months, who have experienced their own personal challenges while “showing up” to work each day trying to figure out what it means to bring our best selves to work on behalf of the community we love.
It is not too early to express our gratitude to the staff we had to say goodbye to – many who have worked for us for years and who cared deeply about our mission and helped to shape it every day.
It is certainly not too early to express our gratitude to the lay leaders who have stood side by side with us as we navigated waters no one has ever seen before. None of them signed up for this and yet they supported us, helped us through the darker moments, opened their hearts, their wallets, and their zoom screens, sometimes on a daily basis.
It is not too early to express our gratitude to the people who have volunteered to help these last six months – the people who made phone calls to isolated older adults, who read to at-risk children in our schools, who made calls to encourage people to vote, who clipped the weeds in Riverside Park or picked up the garage on Broadway.
It is definitely not too early to express our gratitude to the community that reminded us why we are here. They too “showed up” on our screens to learn Hebrew, exercise with friends, study Torah, attend lectures, engage in cultural events, sing Shabbat songs, and do what JCC folks always do – find friends, connect to someone or something larger than themselves, grow and learn within the context of a set of values that has sustained our people for thousands of years.
It is not too early to express our gratitude to the rabbis, cantors, and educators who have never worked harder with so few resources to keep us connected, spiritually alive, and learning despite the radical disruption the pandemic has caused our synagogues. As we approach these high holidays, eager to put this year behind us, be sure to find a way to thank your spiritual leaders for all they are doing for all of us.
It is not too early to express our gratitude to our Federations and colleagues at other JCCs across the country. A board member of mine pointed out that we are in fact not in the same boat – some boats are strong and well-equipped, while others are leaking or sinking. But we are all in the same storm. Our Federations and JCCs, synagogues and schools are the Jewish people’s marina right now, holding us together and looking out for the most vulnerable among us.
It is not too early to express our gratitude to our families who have watched us worry and even at times despair. As we brought single focus to our work, they fed us and did the laundry, held our hands and reminded us that we had what it takes to get through this.
It’s not too early to express gratitude to the people who read our appeals and opened their wallets. They made it possible for us to stay alive and their gifts reminded us how much we matter and how important the work is.
Indeed we do have what it takes. Because the communities we have spent so many years building and nurturing still need us and the vision that has brought all of us to this work still animates everything we do.
Rabbi Joy Levitt is the Executive Director at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.