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Reflection on the Days of Awe

According to the Jewish calendar, we are approaching the days of “awe.” Hmmm, what does that mean this year?

Every day our news seems to get worse. We are housebound for our health and safety, we can’t commune with friends and family without face coverings and maintaining a social distance, people we know are getting seriously sick.

How can we find the inspiration and motivation to reflect on our behavior, to consider those around us and to commit to a better tomorrow? How can we model personal growth and character improvement to our children, when we are struggling?

David Suissa, editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp. and the Jewish Journal, recently wrote that we need to double down on our commitment to Jewish community. Granted that it is more difficult than ever to participate in Jewish community, to attend services on YouTube and Religious School on Zoom, to continue paying membership dues and class fees when you’re not sure about your employment.
However, if we turn our back on the Jewish infrastructure at this time of need, will it survive? Will it be there to nourish us in the good times, to host the Bar or Bat Mitzvah of our child, to bury our parent, to fight the anti-Semitic hatred that seems to be all over our local public schools?

Perhaps these challenges provide an opportunity. Our reflection can supersede the personal struggles to acknowledge the community one at this unprecedented time. We can continue to participate in community, modeling the time and effort to our children, showing them that we care about the continuation of our Jewish tradition and culture. We can try to contribute financially to the sustainability of our institutions, letting them know that we care.

If we can survive this crisis as a community, these days of awe will forever be remembered, for the love and commitment we modeled as we carried forward the traditions of our ancestors.

B’shalom.

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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