The summer is half over. The High Holy Days loom. In 12 days’ time, a shofar will begin sounding on weekday mornings in traditional synagogues and in some more liberal ones, as the month of Elul gets underway. Sephardic congregations will begin the early morning recitation of the S’lichot, the penitential prayers that Ashkenazi congregations will begin to recite on Labor Day weekend.
The focus of Elul is on preparing ourselves for the process of repentance, of taking stock of how we live our lives and how we could live them better.
Communities also need to undergo this process of introspection.
How have we, as a community, responded to the needs of Jewish children? Have we done all that we could to assure that they get the best possible Jewish education, whether in day schools and yeshivot, or in after school programs? Have we adequately responded to the needs of their teachers? Have we helped provide them with continuing education and the most-up-to-date teaching tools? And what about our children with special needs? What is being done for them and what can we do to help?
How have we, as a community, responded to the needs of our elderly members? Are many of us even aware of their needs, or of the needs of the agencies and institutions that support them? How are the homebound cared for? What services do our nursing homes and assisted living facilities provide? What more can be done with our help?
How have we, as a community, responded to the ever-rising cost of living a Jewish life? Do we actively engage in the workings of our synagogues, or just send in a check for dues once a year and think that will be enough to keep the doors open, the lights turned on, and the programs running? Do we understand the role of our Jewish Family Service agencies in helping those without to keep from feeling left out and forgotten?
How have we, as a community, responded to helping the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey meet its responsibilities – responsibilities we placed on its shoulders so that they would not rest on ours? Have we even taken the time to educate ourselves about what JFNNJ does, how it does it, and for whom?
As we prepare to engage our own souls in an examination of our individual lives, we must also engage our communal souls in an examination of Jewish life in northern New Jersey. We need to repair the world, but that work must begin in our own front yards.