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October 7, 2015 | 24th Tishrei 5776

From Rabbi Norman Cohen of Bet Shalom Congregation, Minnetonka, MN

"Facing the Crisis, Financial and More"

Difficult times often bring out the worst in people. We are navigating what are for many of us uncharted waters.  The URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) is encouraging congregations to respond helpfully to members who are having financial difficulty.

Rabbi Locketz and I are eager to be as helpful and supportive as we can during this difficult time for so many. As always, we welcome the opportunity to sit with you and listen to your concerns. Please do not hesitate to call for an appointment.

We know that this is not just about finances.  Tension and uncertainty invade other areas of our life and even the disruption of an everyday routine can be traumatic. We know how difficult and discouraging it can be not to have a place to go every day. Staying at home for many does not always provide the most conducive attitude or environment to do the transition work that must be done.

We invite and encourage our congregants who are facing difficult circumstances to come to the synagogue Monday through Friday and use our Bet Shalom home as your base to explore the marketplace. Our building has WIFI so that you can use your computers; your cell phones usually work well in our building; if not, we have telephones you can use. You can sit at a table in our social hall or use one of our classrooms for privacy. We always have fresh coffee and hot water for tea. You may meet others with whom you can even do some valuable networking. This difficult time might be transformed into an opportunity.

We have also heard people sadly confide that they want to quit the synagogue because they cannot afford to pay their dues. That is the last thing people in need should do.  Our dues committees, our executive director, Andrea Blumberg, your clergy and staff, are all here to listen and to help make adjustments so that you can be a part of the synagogue when you most need it. These are times when communities are tested but also times when they prove their value.

Our sanctuary is also a place we encourage you to visit. Our prayerbook is designed not only for joyful Shabbat services and simchas, but as a place for mediation and reflection, for gathering strength and inspiration to face the vicissitudes of life.

Rabbi Peter Knobel, the president of the CCAR, our national rabbinical organization, recently communicated the following to his colleagues: "We need to provide not only practical help but also spiritual help.  The texts and rituals of our tradition can provide strength and comfort.  Our synagogues can become safe places for people to share their needs in ways which are not embarrassing.  With some creative thinking, we can enable those more fortunate to help those less fortunate by supplying the things they need other than money. 

Obviously there is no clarity about the length, depth or duration of the current crisis, but we should see it as an opportunity to do those things that will mold our institutions into communities of mutual concern...During financial and organizational difficulties...we may discover the incredible human resources, talent and expertise that our members have and are so generously willing to share.

You will be reading this in the season of darkest night as Chanukah approaches.  As... members of the Jewish community, we have both the responsibility and the opportunity to kindle the lights of caring and support for each other.  The Talmud teaches: kol yisrael areivim zeh bazeh. We are responsible for one another.  Let us know how you can help and how we can help you."

Difficult times often bring out the worst in people. But they have the potential to also bring out our best.


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