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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Elul 18 - Israel - by Rabbi Jonah Zinn

I went to Israel last week. I was there with a group of congregational rabbis in their 20s and 30s who are new to STL on a mission sponsored by the Jewish Federation. We spent the week exploring aspects of Israel that often go overlooked. We met with leaders of religious minority communities. We heard from women working for greater justice for other woman within Judaism and learned about issues of religion and state. We toured east Jerusalem, the Hebron Hills, Sderot and Yokneam-Megiddo, St. Louis' Partnership2Gether community. We met change agents from the Bedouin and Israeli Arab communities, spoke with African Asylum seekers and so much more. 

I returned to St Louis exhausted and overwhelmed. The people we met were so incredible and the work they were doing so important. In the spirit of Elul, I spent the past few days reflecting on each interaction and considering the lessons I can learn from each person we met 

One woman we met founded an impressive school for Israeli Arabs. As I listened to her speak, her passion and vision captivated me. She spoke frankly and powerfully about the challenges recruiting staff who shared her vision. She commented on how difficult it was to find and retain teachers like her. One could sense the ownership she felt over her school and wanted to see it expand. From her comments, I think she knew she needed to take a step back and let others lead so she could focus on expanding the school’s model--but it was clearly difficult for her as it is for many of us.

Taking a step back is challenging, particularly when we feel so invested in our work. Elul calls us to evaluate all aspects of our life. We often speak of opportunities that we might embrace in the New Year. My experience in Israel reminded me that the New Year isn’t just about embracing new ideas and new opportunities. The New Year is also about recognizing that at times we need to take a step back, as difficult as it may be. May this Elul help us to clarify the places from which we need to recuse ourselves so the New Year can be a year of goodness and blessing for us all.

Rabbi Jonah Zinn

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