I asked a member of a multi-generational Charleston family what is the secret of their family’s long-time, continuous affiliation with Jewish communal institutions like Shul, school, and Federation. They looked at me, thought for a moment, shrugged their shoulders, and simply said, “We keep showing up!”
Consistently showing up without fanfare seemed to me a bit anti-climactic. I was hoping to learn about some secret sauce that would tell me how to inculcate communal commitment in others. It slowly dawned on me, however, that the day-in, day-out, quiet dedication and participation in communal life makes all the difference between a passive observer and an active member of a community.
During the past year, one of the great risks of throttling back Jewish communal involvement is the possible unintended outcome of inertia setting in and people getting used to minimal involvement in ritual or cultural activities as a new default setting.
There is also the possible risk of people’s pent up urge to be freed from what feels like being under house arrest from the past year inducing wanderlust to explore new vistas for the sake of change when what is most emotionally needed, especially for young people, is stability and security at a time of crisis and upheaval.
A potential solution for both of these challenges is to gradually exit “safe mode” and reboot and restart our default settings as per the manufacturer’s specifications. Recommitting ourselves to slowly reintegrating into regular participation in Jewish lifecycle and ritual events at home, school, and Shul may help us start to regain our spiritual equilibrium and reinstate the rhythm of the traditional calendar into our daily lives.
Personal relationships that have been sorely missed or even started to atrophy may need nurturing and TLC to revive them to their former, healthy state. Implementing a daily regimen of reaching out to others either virtually or, when safe, in person, can help us rebuild much of what it feels like we have lost over the course of this past year as our interpersonal activities have been curtailed or lain dormant to a great extent.
Ghandi said that “we must be the change we want to see in others”. If we redouble our efforts to engage in communal life, our role modeling may influence others to do the same. May we all be able to keep showing up for the benefit of others and, ultimately, for the benefit of ourselves as well as the entire community.
Rabbi Elisha Paul