After the Jews left Mitzrayim and wandered through the desert, they were free. They no longer belonged to slave owners who forced them to work. They became part of the greater Jewish community—wandering together through the desert, trying to find their way, dependent upon one another for food, survival and hope. This was the start of Jewish communal life.
The concept of community is paramount to the existence of the Jewish people. Formally, we need 10 to make a minyan and pray. We assume responsibility for one another by visiting the sick, clothing and feeding the poor. We give tzedakah to try to make a difference, to provide services for those in need, to enhance our community programs, and to participate in communal responsibility.
Research shows that those who participate in faith-based communities are happier and live longer than those who don’t. There are so many ways to participate in the Orange County Jewish Community. Take a lesson from the Passover story, engage in some way. It doesn’t have to be financial, or even have a financial component—attend a free tot Shabbat or any service, visit a PJ Library program, accept an invitation or invite friends to a Seder. Every interaction with others builds community, and when those interactions are Jewishly oriented, they build Jewish community—preventing someone from wandering through the wilderness alone and modeling for our children the importance and power of community.
Sue Penn is a mother of three, Director of Congregational Learning at University Synagogue, president of Jewish Reconstructionist Educators of North America and a member of the Jewish Educators Assembly.