New Challenges and New Responses

There is one line in this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, that really struck a chord in me. While discussing the emerging leadership structure of the newly formed tribes of Israel and realizing that new leaders may wish to return to Egypt to acquire additional horses, G-d instructed that no person should be sent back to Egypt for any purpose. The words used were, “You must not go back that way again.”  While these instructions were intended for a very specific purpose, they also carry a much broader message.

We all have the tendency to return to what is known and comfortable – what has “worked” in the past. 

As many of you know, in my prior life I was a therapist. One of my former “rabbis,” Sigmund Freud, was intrigued by the tendency of individuals to repeat prior behaviors and experiences. Freud even had a name for extreme cases; he called it repetitive compulsion.  

Individuals are not the only ones to suffer this malady. Organizations can easily fall into the trap of repeating old habits, actions and behaviors. After all, it feels easy and familiar – but there’s the rub. New challenges call for new responses.

For both the individual and the organization, the first step in overcoming repetitive compulsion is to recognize the behavior and identify other options. We at the Federation understand and embrace the need to look forward. We recognize that past solutions may not apply to current challenges. That said, to “not go back that way again” doesn’t mean we reject past approaches completely; it means we recognize there may be better ways to achieve our goals today.  

Our Jewish community is one that embraces change and supports new ideas. We are not afraid to confront new challenges and pursue new dreams. This is a tremendous blessing. I believe our fearlessness, our vitality, and our continued work to include every Jew will bring our community to even greater heights in the New Year. 

So far, we are off to a great start. On Tuesday evening, nearly 125 community members attended an exciting new forum led by David Bernstein, President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, entitled “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Israel…But Were Afraid to Ask.”  And hundreds of community members have already registered for Visions (September 20) and Voices (September 27), our signature men’s and women’s philanthropy events.

There is much work to do, and we have much to celebrate, as we build an ever stronger Jewish community. I hope you will join us!

Shabbat Shalom.


Howard Sovronsky
President & CEO


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