A few weeks ago, I attended the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly in Los Angeles along with thousands of North American Jews and 66 members of our Orange County Jewish community (our largest delegation ever). As the umbrella organization of 148 federations and 300 communities, JFNA – the Federation movement – leads the continental community in our work to protect and enhance the lives of Jews worldwide.
During one of the sessions I attended, Rabbi Steven Leder, a renowned Los Angeles-based congregational rabbi, spoke about family as a value, weaving in a tale about his experience at a past Thanksgiving holiday. Around the table were his sister, his sister’s brother-in-law and his friend, that friend’s partner, twins, the mother-in-law, cousins and yet more friends. It was a hodgepodge of people, a colorful mosaic of diversity, and politics. And with that colorful mosaic came lively conversation. And diverging opinions. Historic tensions between family members came to the surface. An uncle poured himself a third glass of Bourbon.
Still, despite the sometimes awkward and sometimes challenging hours spent around that table, Rabbi Leder found himself sentimental as the time to head home neared. This was his mishpacha (Hebrew for “family”). These were his people, in all their often-difficult glory. Because you can’t pick your family. They are who they are. And just as Abraham had to manage family dynamics, so too must we all.
On this Shabbat nestled between Thanksgiving and Chanukah, I want to acknowledge that this is a time of year when we can face heartwarming and sometimes challenging times with family, in whatever form that may take. And for others still, there is a loneliness in this season. So, I want to remind you that, as a community, we are family. We – Jewish Federation & Family Services – are here for everyone. Because everybody counts. Everyone has a place.
If you or someone you know needs emotional support during this holiday season or at any time, please reach out to our highly trained counselors and therapists. To schedule an appointment, call 949.435.3460. We are here to help.
P.S. I invite you to join us at our Annual Meeting & Board Installation – this Monday, December 4, at 7:00 p.m. at the Merage JCC. Come celebrate the accomplishments of the past year along with the people and leadership who have contributed to our success and welcome our incoming slate of Officers & Directors. Most importantly, let’s imagine, together, what’s ahead of us. More info and register here.
Mission Statement: We care for people in need and strengthen Jewish community in Orange County, Israel, and around the world.