Shabbat Greetings from Meredith Dragon 1.15.21

Do you remember Billy Joel’s song, We Didn't Start The Fire? The lyrics, decade by decade, outline the highlights of bygone eras. If we were to create a verse simply for the past year it could read, Covid –19. Civil unrest. Protests. Riots. Partisan politics. Antisemitism. White Supremacy. It has been a tough year, to say the least. We are tired and frustrated. When I speak to family, friends and colleagues, I hear a constant consistent refrain: worn-out, exhausted, enough is enough and I need a break. Everyone is anxious for better days. Regardless of where any of us fall on the issues of the day, we are all in need of healing.
 
The question is, how do we heal, particularly when we are still not able to be together physically for the foreseeable future? I believe that part of our exhaustion comes from feeling like we do not have the power to make a difference and change our circumstances. So much feels beyond our control. But, perhaps if we can act collectively, our small bits of energy together, can make a difference? Taking action empowers us individually
and together.
 
There are a variety of things we can do right now to take action. On Tuesday, January 19 at 11:30 AM, on behalf of the ROCStrong effort to secure Jewish Rochester, our Director of Community Security, Mark Henderson, will be holding a briefing and training for our community members. Important information will be shared that will help all of us maintain a safe Jewish community. I encourage you to attend this important session. Click here to register. For more information about ROCStrong, Click here.
 
Over the next several weeks and months, the Levine Center to End Hate is holding a series of programs that will provide opportunity for education, dialogue and positive action. I encourage you to check the Levine Center to End Hate for information and resources. On Wednesday, February 10 at 5:00 PM, in collaboration with The Levine Center to End Hate and TEDx Rochester join us for A Tale of Two CitiesRedlining and Racist Policies in Rochester, New York.
 
Creating a safe and secure community, while fighting hatred, are two sides of the same coin. Both are needed to fight antisemitism. Eric Ward, who spoke at our Brave Spaces: Rochester's Summit to End Hate, in September, explains, "Jews function for today’s white nationalists as they often have for antisemites through the centuries: as the demons stirring an otherwise changing and heterogeneous pot of lesser evils." From the chants of Jews will not replace us to imagery of Nazi salutes and Camp Auschwitz sweatshirts, we see the impact of the emboldened white supremacy movement. Antisemitism is not just a Jewish problem, it is an American one.
 
We, as Americans, must find the energy and strength to stand up to those who want to harm us. Yes, we are tired, but now is the moment to muster a second wind and come together in healing and in support to ensure that our country can live up to the promise of providing a free and open society for all people. Each Shabbat we read the prayer for our country. This prayer brings to bear the melding of Jewish values of righteousness, with the ideals of a democratic nation. As we end a week and begin another I hope the words of this interpretation, by Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, bring comfort and hope. We will certainly need it in the weeks and months to come. 
 
Prayer for Our Country
By Rabbi Ayelet Cohen
Our God and God of our ancestors, bless this country and all who dwell within it.
Help us to experience the blessings of our lives and circumstances
To be vigilant, compassionate, and brave
Strengthen us when we are afraid
Help us to channel our anger
So that it motivates us to action
Help us to feel our fear
So that we do not become numb
Help us to be generous with others
So that we raise each other up
Help us to be humble in our fear, knowing that as vulnerable as we feel there are those at greater risk,
And that it is our holy work to stand with them
Help us to taste the sweetness of liberty
To not take for granted the freedoms won in generations past or in recent days
To heal and nourish our democracy, that it may be like a tree planted by the water whose roots reach down to the stream
It need not fear drought when it comes, its leaves are always green
Source of all Life,
Guide our leaders with righteousness
Strengthen their hearts but keep them from hardening
That they may use their influence and authority to speak truth and act for justice
May all who dwell in this country share in its bounty, enjoy its freedoms and be protected by its laws
May this nation use its power and wealth to be a voice for justice, peace and equality for all who dwell on earth
May we be strong and have courage
To be bold in our action and deep in our compassion
To discern when we must listen and when we must act
To uproot bigotry, intolerance, misogyny, racism, discrimination and violence in all its forms
To celebrate the many faces of God reflected in the wondrous diversity of humanity
To welcome the stranger and the immigrant and to honor the gifts of those who seek refuge and possibility here,
As they have since before this nation was born
Let justice well up like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream
 
I wish you a restful Shabbat and the strength and energy to see a better tomorrow, together. We can make a difference.
 
Shabbat shalom-
 
Meredith Dragon, CEO

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