There was once a little farm town that was struggling to survive as they were amidst a terrible draught and slowly losing all of their crops. Each and every Sunday they would gather together in the church and each and every Sunday the pastor would continue to preach on the need to believe it would rain. After weeks and weeks of the same sermon some of the church elders decided to confront the pastor and gently prod this old preacher into preaching a new tune.
“Pastor,” one of the parishioners begins, “with the utmost respect, are you aware that you keep preaching on the same subject of ‘praying for rain’ every single week?”
“Reverend”, another one says, “Maybe you could preach on something else as we clearly already pray for rain.”
At this point, the pastor had heard enough and could take no more. “I’ve preached on believing it will rain, not praying for rain. And I will continue to preach on it every Sunday until you stop praying and start believing, until each and every one of you shows up with his umbrella. Until then, it ain’t gonna rain!”
Call me the preacher man cause here we go again. I said it a few weeks ago, I’ll say it right now and I’ll keep on saying it until we believe it. No, I’m not begging you to believe it will rain – in fact, please don’t as we could use some sun in these parts. But I beg you; I implore you to believe this – Am Echad; Lev Echad that we are, indeed, one people with one and only one heart.
We are a community at a crossroads; some might say a community in crisis. You have to be completely removed from this community or entirely apathetic to not know what is currently happening with our JCC. They are fighting vigorously to stay open, to stay solvent, to change their course and to stay alive. Whether they will or they won’t is something we need to talk about and something each and every one of us has a say in over the coming days, weeks and months. However, we cannot have that conversation, cannot solve their challenges or the rest of the community’s ills (and make no mistake about it, the JCC is simply the canary in the coal mine; if they fall, we fall) until we believe, truly believe that we are in this together; we are brothers and sisters. Our words, our actions and our feelings about one another and this community have power, import and consequences. In the end, we will not find our way through this until we believe that we are Am Echad – Lev Echad; One People – One Heart.
There is no JCC. There is no Federation. There is no Cohen Hillel Academy. There is no Temple Emanu El, Shirat Hayam, Sinai, Shalom, Ahavat Achim or Chabad….There is no you and there is no me. There is us, there is we. There are problems but they are our problems. There is a crisis and it is yours, it is mine and it is ours make no mistake about it.
But also, make no mistake, we can and will find our way through these trying times if, and only if, we unite as did our brethren of old in the Torah. In this week’s Torah portion, ironically, parshat Bamidbar the Israelites are truly “bamidbar – in the desert.” And what’s the first thing the Israelites did to begin to find their way through? They took a census, divided up duties and shared labors to set forth to survive.
So too, thousands of years later we need to gather, to rally, to unite and to work together. We need to build one another up as institutions and individuals, not tear one another down. We need to open our minds to a new future and open our hands to reach out and help fix our neighbors’ broken fences. Most of all we need to open our hearts, remembering and believing Am Echad; Lev Echad – that we are one people and that we have one heart. Always have. Always will.
My friends, this community is at the brink. There is great challenge in front of us and tremendous problems to surmount if we are to move forward, survive and ultimately thrive. Which way we go depends not upon me or upon you. Rather, it depends upon us. Although the tasks are many and the journey is long, we will never even get to the tasks at hand, certainly never fully make the journey if we do not believe, finally and fully believe, that we are in this together, we are brothers and sisters and we are Am Echad Lev Echad – One People One Heart.
This is our new mantra. This is our new slogan. This is our new way of life. Prepare to hear it time and again cause I’m gonna keep on preaching about it until we show up with our spiritual umbrellas prepared to receive the bounty of heaven and the beauty of a thriving Jewish community once again. That will only happen, however, when we join together, treat one another with kindness, compassion and camaraderie; and set forth with some courage, vision and a resolve to see it through.
Am Echad Lev Echad – One People One Heart.