Once upon a time, in a green city, there lived a man, a green man. The green man lived in a green house with a green door and green windows. He had a green wife and two green children. And at night, he slept in his green bed and dreamed green dreams. 

One fine green morning, the green man awoke. He put on his green shoes, a green shirt and green trousers. He put a green hat on his head and went out. The green man got into his green car and drove on a green road. On one side of the road, the green man saw a green sea, and on the other, lots of green flowers. It was a lovely day and the green man was happy; he sang green songs and smoked a green cigar with green smoke. 

And then, the green man saw a blue man on the road. The green man stopped his green car and asked the blue man:

“Hey, blue man, what are you doing here?”
“Me?” asked the blue man,
“I’m from a different story.”

Thankfully, we don’t live in a society where everyone is exactly the same. Some are green, some are blue, and some are other colors entirely. And we don’t all have to conform to be the same color. In fact, by learning the strengths of others who are not like us, we create a more successful and united community, nation and world. We needed this story this summer – in our world, in our country and even within our beloved synagogue.

These last few months, each time we turned to the news, it seemed that something was pulling our world apart. Whether it was terrorist attacks overseas and within our borders or truly divisive political campaigns, division seemed to be the theme of our days. Are we more aware than we ever have been of conflict around the globe or even here in the United States? Yes, that is surely part of it. But still, as Elie Weisel, z”l (of blessed memory) taught us, in the globalized world of 2016, we know too much to pretend that we are alone on this planet. In his words, “the opposite of love is not hate, its indifference.” We have a responsibility to care and to act however we can in the face of injustice, hatred and violence.

Locally, here in our spiritual home, this has been a challenging summer as well – a summer that none of us – not members, not Trustees, not Executive Committee members, not your Rabbi – ever anticipated. And, yet, I believe that we not only approached such a difficult matter with great maturity and thought, I believe that we have come out of it much stronger as a community. So many members of this community gave of their time to ensure that Kavod – respect – was always at the forefront of our actions. The Haftorah for Parshat V’etchanan reminded us that God called each of the Angels by name, one by one, as they were assigned their specific roles in partnership to fulfill the Divine mission. Each and every member of this congregation continues to have a role and a place within our diverse community. Each and every one of us – I know – wants our synagogue to succeed, to thrive, to soar. Our goal remains to continue and strengthen the sacred work of our synagogue. Our future is strong and bright. “Al Tifrosh Min HaTzibbur,” teaches Pirkei Avot/ Ethics of the Fathers – we are strong by remaining together.

Before we turn to a new book of the Torah, we stand at attention and say, “Chazak, Chazak v’nitchazek,” by being strong, we strengthen not just ourselves but each other. We begin a new chapter here at the JCCH now, with committed members, tireless volunteers’ leaders and our talented staff members (a special, warm welcome to Ronit Razinovsky and Ann Pardes). Nitchazek! Let us continue to strengthen one another as we begin a new season, a new chapter, a new blessed Jewish Year of 5777 here at the Jewish Community Center of Harrison.

Shalom u’lhitraot – see you soon,

– Rabbi Hammerman