Being together, it is what Jews do. Every aspect of Jewish life is designed around the communal experience. When we mourn, we gather in a minyan to say Kaddish. We set up Jewish learning spaces for our children. Even when we repent, we do it in plural! In the Viddui or “confession” we recite on Yom Kippur, it is written in first person plural. It is not clear if you as the individual committed the transgression or if it was someone else in the community. Alphabetically it explores all the different ways we might have wronged ourselves or one another in the last year and we say it together. We support one another in our most vulnerable moments of self reflection and honesty. The Kol Nidrei prayer said on the eve of Yom Kippur is also a collective renunciation of past vows.
As someone who has, for many years, had a struggled relationship with God, this is what kept me coming back to moments of prayer. A sense of connection, not necessarily to God, but to Jews. Knowing that throughout our history, whether it be in Spain, America, Israel or Australia, Jews have repeatedly come back to these words and these ideas. They found comfort in them. They loved them. And perhaps if I keep coming back to them I will find something in them too. And sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. But I keep coming back. I keep being drawn back to the warm glow of the community. Of being with Jews. Whether that be at my workplace, at a Shul service, at a JIFF screening or at the In One Voice festival. It is my safe space.
Sanhedrin 17b describes the things needed for a town to be considered ‘thriving’. It lists a number of worthy things, a Shul, a teacher of children and a doctor for example, and some things that perhaps we in the modern day could do without (bloodletter I’m looking at you).
Regardless of what your Jewish community looks like and how you build it, it is central to the Jewish experience and has been for thousands of years. It is no wonder why, when faced with the unimaginable horror of the murder of the innocent, the biggest murder of Jews since the Holocaust, that so many have found meaning and comfort, not by being alone but by being together. Not through isolation, but through community. Never has there been a more important time to come together, to find strength in one another. There is no more Jewish response than that. And so, like in every generation before me, I will continue to meet with my community. For now to find comfort, and for tomorrow to get back to the work on building a strong Jewish Kehillah.