In last week’s Shabbat/Rosh Hashanah message, our president, Julie Nusbaum, eloquently inspired us with blessings of light and goodness for the New Year, as she reminded us of the importance of community and connections during a challenging time. Little did we know how prophetic Julie’s words would be as we learned of the light of the indomitable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg leaving our world. There is so much I admired about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was small in stature, yet she had strong convictions that she was not afraid to share. But, she also had the innate ability to listen and reason. She led with a warm heart, open mind and great humility. I have learned so much from her.
Even though Justice Ginsburg’s light has gone out, her impact leaves a lasting impression on our world, like a shooting star lighting up the night’s sky. The path that Justice Ginsburg paved leaves an indelible mark on society. It certainly isn’t lost on me that I am the first female CEO of our Jewish Federation and one of a small minority of women Federation CEO’s across our country. I am grateful to women, like Ruth, who fearlessly let their convictions, and a belief in what is good and fair, guide them on a journey through life. I am certain that one of the reasons I am in my role today is because of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Regardless of what we believe in, we can all look to Justice Ginsburg’s demeanor and judiciousness as a behavioral guide. In particular, during these days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we have an obligation to evaluate ourselves, our lives and how we relate to each other. Justice Ginsburg said, “Anger, resentment, envy and self-pity are wasteful reactions. They greatly drain one’s time. They sap energy better devoted to productive endeavors.” And yet, so many of us are easily sucked into these unproductive emotions. It is time to let these feelings go and there is no better time of year to do this than right now.
In preparation for Yom Kippur we take the ten days leading up to the holiday to look internally and reflect on ourselves. Forgiveness needs to be sought in those days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur because we must seek absolution between ourselves and others before we can ask for compassion from God. This is the wonderful juxtaposition of Jewish life, allowing us to take charge of our own destiny, while also recognizing that there is a power greater than us.
This is a time to have those tough conversations about who we are; what we believe in; and if our actions and deeds truly reflect our values and beliefs. While we take personal stock in ourselves, I believe this is also an opportunity to take a deep look at our community. I believe that our Jewish institutions have lives unto themselves. They have personality, reputations, vision, goals, dreams, desires, strengths, and shortcomings, much like us. Personifying any institution may seem a bit odd, but through our work, we have as much opportunity to impact lives as deeply as our interpersonal relationships.
It seems appropriate at this time, as we spend our last days preparing for Yom Kippur, I have been given an awesome responsibility and obligation to ask for your forgiveness both personally and professionally. Please forgive me for any time that you may have felt slighted, overlooked or not appreciated. If I have not met with your expectations for fulfilling our institutional mission, I ask that you forgive me.
On a personal note, I ask for your forgiveness if I have directly, or indirectly, done anything that has upset you, caused you grief, aggravation or distress. Please accept my deeply sincere apology. In turn, I will do the same. I wish you all an easy fast (tzom kal) and may you be sealed in the book of life (gmar chatima tova).
And, may Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s name be a blessing and may her legacy continue to be an inspiration for all people.
Shabbat shalom -