A message from Richard Siegel
President, Temple Beth Am
I hope this month’s issue of the Commentator finds our our entire community safe, healthy and protected during these challenging times for our people and our homeland.
I have to admit that, despite all the tumult in our world, I have found myself in moments of deep introspection over the past month. Specifically, asking myself “how the heck did you get yourself into this position?” I remember going through a mental checklist in my head earlier this year. Capital campaign – done; amazing new campus expansion – completed; membership – larger and more vibrant than ever; clergy – strongest in my 20+ years at TBAM; schools – bursting at the seams with best-in-class educators and engaged families. In other words, the perfect time to be the President of Temple Beth Am. “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I thought to myself. All I could come up with was the roof in the sanctuary springing a leak. Oh, what I would give now to have a leaky roof be our gravest concern!
Turning my attention outward now, and while I’m sure I could write pages about what is going on in our Jewish world, you can (and do) get that everywhere nowadays and from people who are far more educated, insightful and eloquent than me. So, instead, I want to spend a moment addressing one thing that I hear regularly now but that I have not heard anyone think about in the way I do. Specifically, the overuse of the cliché the “new normal” to describe the current state of affairs in our world.
Actually, upon reflection, it’s not that the phrase the “new normal” is being overused, it’s that the phrase shouldn’t be used at all to describe what’s going on in Israel, what’s going on at home, and what Jews are facing throughout the world. While there are a plethora of adjectives that can be used to describe our predicament, “new” and “normal” are not two of them. For us Jews, the threats and challenges we are confronting are not “new” and, even more so, they’re not “normal.”
The story of the Jewish people is a story of survival. Of facing apparently insurmountable odds and, time and time again, surviving and thriving, and stronger as a result. While Hamas’ attacks on October 7 were deplorable, unjustified, inhumane (and lots of other things), they weren’t new. They are just the latest installment in our people’s struggles against those who seek to destroy us.
In addition to not being “new”, this latest existential threat to the Jewish people is anything but “normal.” How any country can endure the indescribable atrocities committed upon Israel by Hamas on October 7 only to be immediately followed by cries for a ceasefire from around the globe is irrational and reprehensible. The world’s conflation of Hamas, a bloodthirsty terrorist group, with the citizenry of Palestine is similarly illogical. No country in the world would be expected to live next to a neighbor intent on its destruction without taking swift and immediate action to eradicate the cancer in its midst. No country, apparently, other than Israel.
Thank you indulging my diatribe.
Turning to our amazing TBAM community, during my remarks on Rosh Hashanah I referenced the increase in antisemitism and my belief that the best way to battle the forces that seek to destroy us is to continue coming together as a community, joined by our common values and beliefs, and demonstrate to the world the strength and resiliency of the Jewish people. When composing those words only a few short months ago, I could never have imagined how apropos they would be today. We should all be so thankful for our community and the abundance of opportunities we are afforded to come together and celebrate what we stand for. And, as we do, I can think of no greater privilege than serving as your President…