One of my favorite songs: (Click to hear the music)
Wherever you go there’s always someone Jewish
You’re never alone when you say you’re a Jew
So when you’re not home
And you’re somewhere kind of ‘newish’
The odds are–don’t look far–
‘Cause they’re Jewish, too.
Some Jews live in tents and some live in pagodas
And some Jews pay rent ’cause the city’s not free
Some Jews live on farms in the hills of Minnesota
And some Jews wear no shoes and sleep by the sea.
Amsterdam, Disneyland, Tel-Aviv—
Oh, they’re miles apart
But when we light the candles on Sabbath eve
We share in the prayer in each one of our hearts…
Wherever you go, there is always someone Jewish – the premise of this song is that, despite our small numbers – we are less than 15 million Jews worldwide – Jews can be found anywhere. The Jewish people are remarkably widespread across the globe – often in small numbers but in a vast number of locations. Whenever I travel, I make it a point to find and meet with the local Jewish community and I know that many of you do the same. Such visits strengthen the more remote (relative to Harrison) Jewish communities that we visit while, at the same time, giving us insights into how our observances of Judaism can be enriched.
And, sometimes things are reversed. This past month, it seems, the entire Jewish world came to visit us, here at the Jewish Community Center of Harrison. Jutka Lumbeckof Hungary,from the Szarvas International Youth Camp joined us to share the dramatic and fascinating story of the rebirth of European Jewry. The Szarvas camp, home to 1500 participants from 25 different countries helps campers develop their own Jewish identities in an area of the world where Judaism was once thought to have no future. Among the stories that Jutka shared was the need at camp to translate each day’s announcements into thirteen languages. The globalized Jewish world – in just one summer camp! The open Jewish community environment that the campers enjoy is notably different from that in their home Jewish communities.
We were also visited in November by Rabbi Yoav Ende of Kibbutz Hannaton in northern Israel. Rabbi Ende is the Executive Director of the Educational Center on Hannaton, Israel’s only official Conservative Kibbutz. The kibbutz is an old concept with a modern vision – as a “religious, pluralistic, Conservative community that will be on one hand very religious, very connected to its Judaism, and on the other hand very much connected to its society.” Rabbi Ende and the 75+ families who have moved to Hannaton in recent years work to create a pluralistic community animated by a concern for social justice, the environment and Jewish spirituality; to strengthen the ties of Jewish peoplehood between Israel and the diaspora; and to help shape Israel’s Jewish identity. They welcome your visits!
Finally – and perhaps most exotic – we welcomed Modreck Maersera of the Lemba tribe of Zimbabwe. The Lemba, a tribe of 70,000 to 80,000 people, trace their Jewish roots to Yemen more than 2,500 years ago. They observe Shabbat, keep kosher, and celebrate biblical holidays such as Pesach and Yom Kippur. In the past twenty-five years, they have connected with the worldwide Jewish community and have built a synagogue and Jewish school in the capital city of Harare. Our visitor taught us about his village, showed pictures of his community as they are learning about holiday celebrations, tefilin, and Hebrew, and played a local instrument, the mbira.
The coming weeks will also remind us of the global presence of the Jewish people as we explore throughout December the story of the Shanghai Jews, the 20,000 refugees whom, during the 1930s, made their way from Europe to Shanghai. Be sure to visit the JCCH Lobby to view our month-long exhibition presented in partnership with the American Jewish Committee.
Finally, a large group of visiting Israeli soldiers, “Modern Day Maccabees,” will join us for the Shabbat of Chanukah, December 11 and 12. I know that we will greet them with thanks and admiration for their work in protecting the Jewish people in Israel and around the world.
As many members of our synagogue are blessed to travel on a somewhat regular basis, I am pleased to include a map of Conservative (Masorti) congregations around the world. Before you travel, take a look at this map or visit www.masortiworld.org and plan for your visit. I would be happy to make an introduction for you to the local Jewish community as well.
Whether you are here in Harrison or elsewhere around the globe (hopefully, meeting the local Jewish community!), I wish you a wonderful Chanukah.