Today marks the beginning of the new month of Elul in the Jewish calendar. While there isn’t specific biblical significance, this month does set the year apart in important and meaningful ways. Elul is an acronym for the phrase, ani l’dodi v dodi li, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. It is seen as a season of love and devotion to each other and our community. Elul is also the last month before the Jewish new year, and begins a season of personal deep introspection, as we begin to prepare for the year ahead. On a personal note, the first of Elul is special because it is my wedding anniversary on the Hebrew calendar! Where did twenty-two years go?
Another uniqueness of Elul is that traditionally the shofar is blown each morning, except on shabbat, from the first day of Elul until the day before Rosh HaShanah. Its sound is intended to awaken our spirit and soul in order to gear up for the spiritual accounting that happens throughout the month. In other words, the month is a warm up for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
It is a beautiful part of Jewish tradition that we prepare our hearts, heads and souls for the High Holidays. There is no doubt that this year has been like none other and there is much to contemplate, good and bad. We have had the highest of highs and lowest of lows.
In speaking with friends and family around the world, there is one thing that everyone seems to agree on today and that is that our world feels untenably fractious. We are not only physically distant form each other because of COVID-19 and the resulting social distancing and masking, but also we seem to live in a time when it is increasingly difficult to engage in civil dialogue and discourse. Rather than being brought together in our differences, we seem to be pitted against each other. Fractiousness is unsustainable and even during this time of designed distance, we need to figure out ways simply to be together, even when we have differing opinions.
In just a few short weeks, we have an incredible opportunity to come together as a community for self-reflection and to engage in important dialogue. The Levine Center to End Hate is hosting its first summit to end hate, called Brave Spaces. This summit is an immersive learning experience bringing community members together to examine issues of racism, antisemitism, and other forms of hate. The summit features nationally renowned civil rights and coalition-building experts and includes a series of workshops led by local thought leaders, aimed at exploring issues from multiple perspectives and promoting dialogue and positive action.
As we prepare in the month of Elul, Brave Spaces is a perfect opportunity to step out of our comfort zones and examine tough issues, as we ready ourselves for a new year. I encourage you to come and participate in any and all of this unique ground-breaking experience. There is so much that we can all learn together, in order to repair our world.
In Rochester, through our work together, we have a special opportunity to make our corner of the world better for all of us. We truly welcome your participation and we hope that this program helps make your month of Elul even more meaningful.
Shabbat shalom -
Meredith Dragon, CEO