A Week to Celebrate, a Week to Mourn, a Week to Act

From Saturday evening to Monday evening we celebrated the festival of Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. From an agricultural perspective, Shavuot was the time when our ancestors harvested the first fruits of the season and brought them to the Temple. It's one of the three major festivals of the Jewish calendar (along with Passover and Sukkot).

But for many of us, this Shavuot felt less joyous than usual because on Sunday we learned of the terrorist attack on Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 people dead, more than 50 others injured, and a community in shock and mourning.

As Jews, we are all too familiar with the price of hatred and bigotry. Just nine days ago we mourned four of our brothers and sisters killed in a Tel Aviv terror attack and prayed for several others who were wounded.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford stands shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community. I'm proud to say that our Jewish Community Relations Council recently held a learning and sharing session with 20 local professionals who work with Jewish teens to begin to build a more inclusive community for all of our young people. Our guest speaker was Daniel Bahner, National Manager of Education and Training for Keshet, an organization that works for full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life. We expect this to be the first of many conversations.

The JCRC's bridge­-building interfaith work also continues to grow through The Brunch Bunch and other initiatives.

As Jews and as Americans, we hold a unique position. We are members of a democratic society that places great value on the rights of individual conscience. We are also members of a great spiritual and ethical tradition that requires more from us than from any other nation.

As we struggle to respond to acts of terror and hatred, I believe we can learn much from our forebears. In Pirke Avot, we read that "Rabbi Hillel said, 'Do not separate yourself from the community'" (Pirke Avot 2:5) and Rabbi Tarfon used to say, "'It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it'" (Pirke Avot 2:21).

I'm proud that the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford is deeply involved in repairing the world, both inside and outside the Jewish community. No particular political viewpoint is required to participate; our work is broad and many hands are needed.

I invite you to join us as, together, we uphold the values espoused nearly 2,000 years ago by Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Tarfon.

Shabbat Shalom.


Howard Sovronsky
President & CEO


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