We are ennobled by Hillel’s optimistic maxim: “Whosoever that saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world”.
Sadly, the recent terror and deaths at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney and at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher in Paris, remind us of Hillel’s counterpoint: “Whosoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world.”
We are all feeling that. Our civic body and soul, the fabric that holds us together have been wounded.
David Leser, in his memoir To Begin to Know was reflecting on the Bali bombings when he described grief as a time when “we share our common humanity most strongly. We have less to hide, less to defend, and so we allow ourselves the possibility of being more open to the pain of others, to the pain of the world.”
As Jews, we understand deep historical pain. We shouldn’t (but we do) reflect on what the world’s reaction might have been had the only recent victims been the four pre-Shabbat shoppers at the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket. That is not a helpful thought, but it does remind us, as history reminds us, that when the Jewish community is damaged, broader society is damaged too. If we are the figurative “canary in the mine” testing the quality of the freedoms and values of our society, then our health should be of concern to all.
Operating from a position of fear and looking inward is not productive or sustainable. We need to look outward from a position of strength, from a standing of self-belief. Our Jewish community has a place of real prominence, value and strength. We can and should build proudly upon that.
In becoming President of JCA on 1 January 2015 I follow in the path of the other exemplary leaders of our community that have travelled before me. I want to acknowledge and thank my immediate predecessor, Peter Philippsohn, for his 4 years of selfless work and leadership. He has been a unifying force and has helped make our community more cohesive. He has provided a sound platform on which to build. I am honoured to take on the role.
In my recent conversations with members of our Jewish community, particularly the younger, I have been struck by their shared desire to connect and their willingness to play a role in making this happen.
Finding ways to be more creative and interesting, to deepen engagement with things Jewish, to include all the Jews of our community whatever their affiliation or Jewish connection and to become more philanthropic are all part of that. Harnessing the extraordinary depth of talent and energy in our community, its intellect, its spirit, its resources and its heart is the opportunity ahead of us.
Success will not be just for us. It will also be for our children and their children. Importantly, it will be for the benefit of our wider society too.
I look forward to working with Daniel and the JCA team together with our community – the 22 member organisations and their leadership as well as our broader community, including volunteers, donors and recipients of our support.
We all have a shared interest in building a secure, vibrant and sustainable Jewish community, based on strong Jewish values.
I look forward to being on that journey with you.
Warm regards and Shabbat Shalom,
JCA COMMUNITY IN ACTION – STORY OF THE WEEK
Serafima Lapteva is a resident at The Montefiore Home in Hunters Hill. Together with her husband, they attended their first couples dinner.
Click here to read her story about a magical evening.