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Making Teshuva

The Torah couldn’t be clearer: We are ALL created B’tzelem Elohim – in the image of G-d. What does that mean? It means that every one of us is entitled to live and die with dignity, to be treated with respect, and to have our basic human needs met.
The events over the last month or so have compounded to make this already difficult time dealing with quarantine and a pandemic much more complicated for each one of us to navigate. As parents, we need to be clear about the messages we pass on to our children. They need to be consistent with our behavior, reflect our value system, and continually reinforced by our carefully chosen community.
We all come to the table with baggage when facing the “isms.” Some of us were victimized by sexism, chauvinism, or anti-Semitism. Others of us may have inadvertently perpetrated an “ism” on someone. At this time in our Jewish year, between the harvest festivals of Shavuot, when we received the Torah at Sinai, and Rosh Hashana, when we renew and begin again, take stock. Take some time to reflect upon the past. What hurt you? What did you do to hurt others? How will you change your behaviors going forward? Learn from the lessons of the past. As post-Holocaust Jews we have an obligation to stand up to injustice and bigoted behavior. Make Tshuva, model appropriate and safe behavior, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Regardless of our past, which we can and should learn from, we need to move forward, paying attention to those words from B’raishit – “and G-d created man in his image.” This leaves ABSOLUTELY NO room for discrimination or intolerance of any kind, and this should be the message we pass on to our children.

SUE PENN has a Master’s Degree in Education and recently obtained a Certificate in Jewish Professional Leadership from Northwestern University and the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning. Sue has been working at University Synagogue for 14 years. She lives in Irvine with her husband. They have three wonderful children. Sue is currently the Director of Membership and Congregational Learning where she oversees all membership, education, and congregant engagement from ages 6-106. Sue has been honored for being an innovative educator and is committed to creative approaches in Jewish Education. In fact, she has led national webinars guiding administrators and teachers in building innovative models of Jewish education. She also writes a monthly article for Jlife Magazine. Sue believes that every child needs to be challenged to reach his or her own potential priding herself in personalizing each student’s Religious education. She currently sits on the National Board of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America, is immediate past president of the Orange County Jewish Educator Association and has previously chaired the National Board of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America. Most recently, Sue was a participant in the Kaplan Center’s 21st Century Kaplanian Vision of Jewish Education.


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