How do you define community? I looked in several dictionaries and found entries such as, “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” Another entry said, “A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” As a relative newcomer to the North Shore, I am able to describe this Jewish community with a fresh set of eyes. This community is fiercely proud of its long-standing presence spread out across 23 towns. There are several community centers and synagogues of all denominations, but only one Jewish day school. Cohen Hillel has been the only Jewish day school on the North Shore for 60 years and with the wonderful growth and strength we are experiencing, it will live on for many, many more as well.
Having recently lost my father, I have come to appreciate community in a profound way. In shacharit (daily morning prayers) we recite a verse from Talmud which to me illustrates the many ways in which we build, define and maintain a Jewish community: “Honoring our father and mother, doing acts of kindness, attending services, visiting the sick, providing for a bride, attending a funeral, being intentional in prayer, and bringing peace between people; and the study of Torah leads them all.” (Talmud, Shabbat 127a) Consider each act: they all relate to building relationships with others – the essential ingredient in a Jewish community where one participates actively. As we all know, there are times when we can give to others, and there are times when we need to receive without worry or accounting. Shiva is one of those times.
During shiva I was surrounded by my synagogue community which ensured that I had a minyan for Kaddish every night. I had meals provided by friends and family. I had many visits from my former colleagues and my son had his friends. But what struck me most was the outpouring of support from my Cohen Hillel community. My faculty and the Yad b’Yad (PTA) presidents drove the 60-plus minutes to my home to be with me for shiva. Members of the Board and my administrative team came to the funeral and stood by me. So many of you, parent, grandparents, and North Shore community members sent cards and made donations. Incredibly, I have known all of you for less than a year. The Cohen Hillel community embraced and supported me so that when I went back to work after a week of observing shiva I didn’t feel nervous or uncomfortable. I had a beautiful card from all my students attached to my door, and there were warm glances and wordless hugs throughout my day and the weeks that followed.
True membership in a community requires building and maintaining relationships by doing for others; this is at the core of a Jewish community. I am truly blessed to be a part of this incredible Cohen Hillel and greater North Shore community. Please accept my sincerest thanks to all of you, and may we continue to be a source of pride, joy and support for, and to, one another.