A conversation I had recently about community continues to gnaw at me. I was talking to someone in his 60s, someone who, throughout his life, has been an active member of the Jewish community here in Denver. Now an empty nester, and despite having given decades of time and energy to various Jewish causes and organizations, he finds himself feeling disconnected. With events cancelled for nearly a year and a half and the Zoom experience more draining than inspiring, he has, by his own admission, drifted away. And though he was fairly conclusive about his feelings of estrangement, we were less conclusive about what exactly he was feeling estranged from. Is community simply an amalgamation of individuals? Of organizations? Is it more than that? How does such a complex network of individuals and organizations welcome the stranger, the newcomer, sojourner, and the one making their return home? Does our community—however we define it—convey such a welcome?
During these interim days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Aseret Yamai Teshuvah or the Ten Days of Repentance, we are asked to consider our wrongdoings, both small and significant, and to reflect on how we can repair our relationships and strive toward our better selves.
While the Hebrew word “teshuvah” is often translated as “repentance,” a more literal translation would be “to return.” Our tradition teaches that to effect repentance we must return home, the implication being that that home is internal and that our repentance is predicated on looking within ourselves, on self-reflection, and on centering our own misdeeds or omissions.
But this year, I would like to offer a different sort of confession, a communal confession—on behalf of the community we are striving to create together and because I know that that community has not always felt like a place that everyone can return home to.
Judaism is expressed in a multitude of ways. It is at once a religion, a culture, a place, a set of values, and a calendar of rituals; it is all of these things and more, and each must be considered if our calling is to build community together.
And so, my communal confession is this: Newcomers, strangers, wanderers and meanderers, drifters from community, we have fallen short in our work to embrace each of you, at your own time and in your own manner. If we have been insufficient in our efforts; if you have felt distanced by our actions or lack thereof; if our vision has been blinded and our ears deafened to your needs, forgive us. If there is something else or something more that we can do, please let me know.
During these interim days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and at all other times, we want you to know that our community, your community welcomes you.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.