Time to be Jewish

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

Sometimes my daily rounds in skilled and assisted facilities can be a little discouraging but not for the reason you might think. I see some amazing individuals who make the most of their time and years. They read, play cards and visit with others. They know they are there to live their final years or days and accept that with tremendous grace and dignity.

No, what has been disturbing me more and more is the next generations. All too often people share with me that their grandchildren know they are Jewish but do not celebrate or live a Jewish life. Residents instill in their families to be proud of their Judaism and never to deny it. However, how can we learn to engage the next generations in the love of our traditions and rituals?

It is becoming too easy to disengage and to remove oneself from the community. It is not enough to say, “I am a good person” so why do I need to actively participate in Jewish life?

Judaism is so much more than blessings and holidays. It is a way of conducting one’s life. It IS a sense of community, of belonging and understanding. I see too many individuals who while never denying their Judaism, have strayed from its course. Now as they reach their final stretch along life’s pathway, they want a rabbi to visit and help them during this time.

I see Christian residents who take delight in reading or being read to from the Bible. Shouldn’t we take the time to read the weekly Torah portion or to receive comfort from the Psalms? It is time to put our collective arms around the beauty of our faith and rituals and beliefs. It is time to educate or reeducate ourselves in the history and mitzvot of Judaism. It is time to be Jewish.