From the Desk of the Federation Executive Director: With gratitude 1/15/21

Editor’s note: This column was written before the January 6 events in Washington, DC. For Jewish Federation of North America’s response to those events, see the Federation Alert on page 1. The Jewish Federation of Greater Binghamton is in agreement with JFNA’s response.

Looking for some inspiration, I called my number one fan and asked what I should write my next op-ed about. She said, “Hope for the new year.” So, thanks, Mom, here goes….

We are all hoping 2021 will bring a safe and speedy end to the COVID-19 pandemic. As of the day that I am writing this, Israel has vaccinated one million citizens with the COVID vaccine. Way to go, Israel! Let’s pray they are able to get their economy back on track as soon as possible, and that the U.S. will get its act together and quickly follow suit. I am optimistic 2021 will see an end to intense isolation, but there is no telling what the new normal will be for everyday life. Will we be able to have social gatherings, travel or enjoy dining out? Will our summer camps, such an important part of the lives of many Jewish children, be able to reopen? I am hopeful these things will transpire, but there are many hurdles ahead in order to get there, not to mention several remaining months of isolation. 

Allow me to dig a little deeper here. Several months ago, I came across the following quote by author Leo Rosten: “The purpose of life is not to be happy at all. It is to be useful, to be honorable. It is to be compassionate. It is to matter, to have it make some difference that you lived.”
This outlook on life is a framework for our time. We may not be in the happiest of times, but we have the opportunity in this moment to expand our compassion for one another. Isn’t it our life’s purpose to become more compassionate and caring? Isn’t this how we get closer to God? So, too, in these days of fear and hostility, when we chose to live honorably, we open the door to further enrich our soul.

This dark year has been full of lessons. Many of us have discovered what matters most and for what we are most grateful. With a greater capacity for compassion comes more patience and forgiveness, and these are the things that will lead to the change our world so desperately needs right now. I am hopeful that we as a nation and community will take with us the lessons of 2020 and cultivate a more loving and compassionate world. Let us all go forward in the new year with hope, and let us live everyday with love, honor and compassion.