Yom Kippur Message
Some of you may be uncomfortable or even upset with what I am about to say. But, I strongly feel that what I am about to say needs to be said.
Yom Kippur is about thought. It’s about self-examination. It’s about possibility and potential. It is about change. In that vein, tonight I am not making the traditional Yom Kippur appeal for your wallets. Tonight, I am making a heartfelt plea for your hearts.
We are told in proverbs, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.” unfortunately, in the past 18 months too many of us too often have not been very diligently watchful.
As Charles Dickens would say, the past tumultuous 18 months have been the best of times and the worst of times. It has been a wondrous thing to witness the efforts of the Rabbi, Penny, the Board, and most members of the congregation struggle day after day to keep the spirit of this community strong. They have come together. They have refused to surrender and give in to the scourge raging around them. Instead, they have stayed the course and have given it their all. These people, courageous profiles in communal responsibility and selflessness, have spent endless hours on the challenging task of finding the means to keep the temple operating in ways that protect the health and well-being of each member, especially the vulnerable members, of our community.
Now, I don’t know when we will reach the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. In June, it seemed so close. Today it seems farther off. While most of us have risen to the occasion, there is a significant number of members, too many for this small community, who have placed themselves above the needs of the community and stepped outside the circle they were once such an important part of. And others of you angrily, resentfully, and unforgivingly believe they deserve to be there, that the deep hurt of their publicly expressed angry words and deeds over masking, testing, social distancing, zooming, and vaccinating have created deep divisions that should have no place here.
For that I am truly sad. I am sad because everyone’s anger is complicit in maintaining the present rupture. But, no one’s anger is any better than anyone else’s. With such anger we hurt ourselves, others, and perpetuate the shattering of the solidarity of this community. So, if we are to heal the wounds we cannot let that anger fester in anyone, for such schismatic anger is a deadly threat to the viability of this community that is far greater than covid.
Judaism insists that disagreement does not require self-righteousness, arrogance, or damnation. Judaism teaches that the path back to community is lit with a powerful love of self and community.
The wisdom of these high holidays is the assertion that people can change, that what a person has said and done is not the sum of what they can say and do. The more each of us believes that, the more likely we can right ourselves and help others right themselves to do right, move past this split, and unite once again.
The great Persian mystic, Rumi, said, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Judaism in general and the high holiday prayers specifically tell us what in that field we must do. We must go to each other, forswearing ill feelings, putting aside condemnation, abandoning grudges, and embracing each other. We should not let anyone push anyone away. We must bring everyone into the fold. We must empathize, listen, embrace, communicate, and, above all, love.
That love of each other and of community demands a moral parity that prohibits any of us from putting ourselves above others. That love replaces harmful and hurtful words with caring ones; it substitutes harmful and hurtful actions with respectful ones; it eliminates mean words and actions with kindness. It disavows self-righteousness and arrogance with equanimity.
Is this not the meaning of these holy days, to ask forgiveness, to grant forgiveness, to embrace, to include, and be the better for it?
That will be a struggle, and it will take time. But, this is the only way we can hope to help ourselves and others return to and connect in community.
We really have little choice to do otherwise. This is a small Jewish community, an old cone, but an aging one. It is one of the few in the rural south that has survived. We need each other to continue on. I’ll repeat that. We need each other to continue on.
As I said, I am making an appeal to you; I am making an appeal for your heart.
May each of you be written into the Book of Life, and may your coming year be filled only with the sweetness of apples and honey.
Please remember that with the recent headlines detailing the Covid Delta surge that is turning the Valdosta area into a raging hot spot, at the behest of the rabbi, to insure the health and well-being of members of the congregation, the Board has decided the following:
- WRITTEN PROOF OF VACCINATION, OR WRITTEN PROOF OF A NEGATIVE COVID TEST TAKEN NO EARLIER THAN 3 DAYS BEFORE EACH HOLIDAY, WILL BE REQUIRED FOR ENTRANCE INTO THE TEMPLE DURING THE HIGH HOLIDAYS FOR ALL INDIVIDUALS AGES 12 AND ABOVE.
- SUCH WRITTEN DOCUMENTATION MUST BE PRESENTED AT THE ENTRY DOOR BEFORE ENTERING THE BUILDING.
- PLEASE REMEMBER TO BRING SUCH WRITTEN PROOF WITH YOU.
- ORAL ASSURANCES WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.
- THERE WILL BE NO EXCEPTIONS!
- ANYONE WHO CANNOT ABIDE BY THESE RULES, CAN ZOOM THE SERVICES.
This way we can avoid closing down the Temple and going totally to ZOOM for services; we can have in-person services while minimizing the threat to the health of all attending persons. This will also allow us to hold the Rosh Hashonah oneg and Yom Kippur break-the-fast. And, while the Rabbi and the members of the Board strongly urge attending persons wear masks, masks and social distancing will not be mandatory. Again, there will be no exceptions to these rules. So, please remember to bring the needed documentation with you, and tell all friends, family, and guests, especially those who are not members and/or those who are coming from out-of-town, of these requirements for attendance at High Holiday services.
Message from President Louis Schmier March 4, 2021
- Last week, in light of a number of members having gotten the vaccine protection against covid, the Board decided unanimously to reopen the Temple building and have in-person Friday night services resume under strict CDC guidelines beginning on Friday, March 12. That is, until further notice, masks covering mouth and nose must be worn at all times throughout the building and social distancing must be practiced, including in the sanctuary. In the sanctuary, congregants will sit six feet apart unless they sit as a family, and will sit only in the pews not taped off. At the same time, Friday night services will continue to be held on zoom for those who cannot attend services in person. There will be no Oneg per se, although a properly social distancing get-together after the service will be held in the Pearlman social hall. We ask that out of respect for the welfare of all attending congregants that attendees abide by these conditions.
- Saturday morning services, Torah study, Hebrew language classes, conversion classes, etc will continue solely on zoom until further notice.
- All non-members who are using the rabbi’s zooming are asked to make a donation to the Temple. Such donations can be sent to: Temple Israel, P.O. Box 841, Valdosta, GA, 31603. Or, they can be made on Temple Israel’s website at: templeisrael-valdosta.org
- Until the Board deems it safe, the delayed 2020 annual congregational meeting that was postponed last April will continue to be delayed.
- Until the Board deems it safe, the “grand celebration” of the renovated kitchen and social hall will continue to be postponed.
- The postponed corned beef 2020 sale will continue to be delayed until after the High Holidays.
- Simplified dues statements will be sent out monthly. Though it may seem that the activities of the Temple were placed in hibernation, please remember three things: first, the Temple’s monthly expenses have to be paid whether the building doors are open or shut; second, the Temple was never really in a hiatus. Services and study sessions continued on zoom for those who wished to take advantage of the technology, and the rabbi was readily available; and, finally, we could not draw on the expected income from the corned beef sale. So, please, bring your dues up to date.
I personally would like to thank everyone for their forbearance, patience, understanding, resilience, support, and encouragement during these extraordinarily trying times. Without each of you, the congregation would not have been able to rise successfully to the challenge thrown at us and overcome it.
Make it a good day, and please stay safe!