Friday, September 16, 2011

Blogging Elul 5771: Connected in so many ways

Last night I came home from Congregation B'nai Israel after a long a day uplifted and inspired.  The inspiration was sparked, in large part, by the last thing I saw before leaving the building.  The Board of BIFTY, our Temple Youth Group, had gathered together for an evening of preparation work.  On the surface, mundane and repetitive tasks were the order of the evening - one group were busy stapling flyers and envelopes onto 800 paper bags.  Another group was stuffing envelopes.  So what was so inspiring?

First, the room was full - almost every single member of the board was present, from Freshmen Reps through to the Juniors who are our current leaders.  School has just got up and running, and here they were giving of their time to the hard work that goes on behind the scenes of successful programming and Youth group activity.

Second, the work they were doing, beyond bringing them together to connect with each other, represented the start of a chain, the ends of which we will never know entirely or personally.  The bags they were preparing are bags that they will hand out on Rosh Hashanah to all of our congregants.  Our congregants will bring them back filled with groceries on Yom Kippur, and our Youth Group will empty them into our Connecticut Food Bank Truck and recycle the bags.  What was work, but also shmooze time, and youth group program planning time, will spin off from that one hour last night to hundreds of people receiving food to supplement their family meals in a matter of weeks.  Our youth, through this simple act, will generate a response from hundreds in our congregation, helping them all do something small to make a difference in the lives of hundreds more.
BIFTY loading the CT Food Bank Truck on Yom Kippur last year
The other mailing they were preparing is being sent to every 9th through 12th grader connected to our congregation, inviting them to be a part of this incredible youth group.  Again, in the busy and hectic worlds of our teenagers, I realize that something that might seem so small is in fact huge.  I witnessed the enormous pleasure of members of the board arriving and reconnecting with each other after the Summer, and their enthusiasm to share the experience with others - with weekly programs, regional NFTY NE events (excitement is building for the Levi Leap annual dance on October 3rd), social action activities, and more.  The sense of identity, belonging, and leadership that builds from the social community that our teens create for themselves will spin out to manifest in ways still unknowable, likely to impact the rest of their lives.

Walking into our Youth lounge last night, I left inspired because what I witnessed was an example of lives lived in the context of community.  Perhaps especially inspired because these teenagers instinctively 'get it', or certainly recognize the added meaning it brings to their lives and are willing to exert the effort that it takes to create their own community and make a difference in the lives of others.

As we reflect on our day-to-day lives, the ways in which we exert energy, the communities we are a part of, the ways we actively contribute to them, and the ways in which the small acts we do in these contexts spin out to impact the lives of so many others, known and unknown, let the youth leadership of BIFTY inspire us all.  We should never underestimate the power of our actions, and our inactions, to shape the communities and the society of which we are a part.
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz

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