High Holidays 5781 / 2020
As I write these words in mid-July, I know that many folks are struggling to get through the crises we find ourselves in — struggling to make decisions about your children’s schooling, struggling to balance work and home life, struggling with having to be in a potentially unsafe workplace or subway. Struggling with our deeper awareness that our nation continues to fail communities of color and to support their lives, health, dignity, and equality. Struggling with the greatest uncertainty, worries, and feelings of overwhelm we have ever known.
In this year of extreme change, we invite you to join Kol Ami on a journey to and through the High Holidays. It may seem odd to start thinking about High Holidays now, or to peg our current situation to such an ancient set of holy days. But as Rabbi Rami Shapiro reminds us, our spiritual tradition is based on two pillars: Tikkun HaNefesh/Healing our Souls and Tikkun Olam/Reparing the World. Both are so desperately needed this year, and both are intertwined. As we repair our souls we become better equipped to repair the world. As we work for good in the world, we discover our souls are calmer, lighter, more filled with light.
In that regard, we will be reading and pondering two books this summer, and discussing them into the fall — Rabbi Alan Lew’s aptly-titled “This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared” — a guide for personal introspection through the High Holiday season. And Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist,” which will help us come to grips with the intersection of our Jewish and American identities, and give us the grounding we need to become antiracists not only in our hearts but in our actions and everyday life. I hope you’ll join us in these collective reads and opportunities to discuss.
Our theme for this year’s High Holidays is Zochreinu l’Chayim — Remember us for life. The phrase comes from the Amidah for High Holidays, and it’s a prayer from the heart — we pray that we will be written into the Book of Life for this coming year. And every moment we are keenly aware that our own actions will help determine our fate. This year, perhaps we translate zochreinu l’chaim as keep reminding us to choose life! Every time we put on a mask, every time we keep physically distant, every ounce of patience we muster as we take precautions — let’s whisper to ourselves: zochreinu l’chaim. Every time we express thanks or share our resources with front-line workers, every time we plant trees and use less fossil fuels, every time we support communities of color and work for their full equality — keep reminding us to choose life, remind us it’s for the sake of life.
Join us at Kol Ami as we walk this important journey in the months ahead.