In the secular world when one is asked about values one might think of American, family or religious values. As President, I am guided by our Beth Ami values to help make decisions and help guide our Board. I often hear the words “Jewish values” tossed around but what do they really mean? I turned to our by-laws, which are based on the Torah for perspective. Our by-laws list our values as:
Teshuvah (return): We value the opportunity, through careful attention to our lives, to make every moment meaningful and to increasingly avoid harmful acts.
Tzedakah (generosity): We value the opportunity to use our wealth and resources to benefit other people.
Gemilut Chesed (acts of loving kindness): We value the opportunity to perform acts of loving kindness through speech and deed.
Talmud Torah (prayer and learning): We value the insight and inspiration we get through the study of our sacred texts and our people’s culture.
Mishpacha (family and community): We value the strength that our congregants derive from forming relationships with each other and sharing in each other’s joys and sorrows.
Hagim & Simchot (celebration): We value the opportunities to mark together the passage of time, the changes of seasons, the continuing story of our people and the cycles of our own lives.
Tikkun Olam (repairing the world): We rejoice in the role we play in helping to make the world an ever better place.
K’vod Habriyot (care for the earth): We value our responsibility as God’s stewards to protect and preserve all life on Earth.
Eretz & Am Yisrael (the people and land of Israel): We value our participation in the unfolding history of our people, rich in culture, diverse in practice and bound through time by the Hebrew language. We are inspired by the challenge of creating a Jewish state that strives to express the truest values of our people and provides refuge for all Jews.
Kehillah Kadosha (holy community): We are humbled and heartened that through the concrete expression of all our values we can indeed create a community in which holiness can be expressed and brought into the world.
Beth Ami’s stated values touch on the overarching Jewish values that guide us as a community and in particular as a Board to perform mitzvot. In a world where we’re surrounded by “the important thing is to feel good about what you’re doing.” Judaism says, “the important thing is to do good, regardless of what you feel.” Judaism expects us to perform mitzvot even we’re not feeling it, even if our heart isn’t into it. Our values guide us and are expressed through our purpose to foster the growth and fuller expression of Jewish life. By joining as a community to provide a spiritual, nurturing, stimulating and social place of worship, we all benefit from a richer, fuller, religious life and our Jewish values grow. Judaism focuses on relationships and the Torah is the instruction manual of how to have good relationships with others and to be moral and kind people and create a more harmonious society.
As my term as President winds down, I can’t help but reflect on how fortunate I feel to serve our community in this capacity. I am also grateful to our hard working, dedicated and generous Board members who have gone above and beyond to care for our “house of my people.” I have learned so much about myself and our community. The relationships and bonds that I have formed over the years are irreplaceable and have brought a deeper meaning and understanding of Jewish values and purpose on a personal level. Despite the many challenges of the last three years, I am grateful to all of you for trusting me to be your fearless leader and for giving me the opportunity to learn about myself, to grow as a leader and most importantly to give back to our community. For all the challenges and missteps, I have gained so much more and have a better understanding of the true meaning of performing mitzvot. In other words, actions are far more important and speak louder than words.