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do we make a difference?

01/05/2023 08:56:43 AM

Jan5

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

All of us like to think that we have made a difference in the lives of others, be it family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers or strangers. Part of the human experience is the quest for purpose, finding a reason for our existence. For those who have been privileged to become a parent, the opportunity to raise the next generation is simultaneously a thrill and an obligation. Sometimes we might even catch a glimpse of an action performed by one of our children and smile, knowing that the source of that action might have been something we taught.

As might be the custom of others, I make donations at the end of the solar year based upon how much discretionary funds remain. More of the donations this year were through the individual charities’ websites, and I included the processing fee as well.  As I was writing a few checks, I began thinking about impact. Do my modest donations really make a difference? The charities will certainly respond positively so that I continue giving next year and beyond, but what has changed since last year? Do we have the will and capacity to solve homelessness, food insecurity and other inequities in our society with the same robustness used to create COVID inoculations? Many of the requests utilized the phrase “the need is greater than ever”, which many use every year, but it makes it sound like they are not progressing, but regressing.

I was also thinking about what impact might our congregation be having on society, if any. Yes, we were thrust into the glare of the world as victims. What are we now? Have we made a difference, and if so, in what way? As I continued to mull this over, I received a Chanukah card from a couple that I do not believe that I know. They live in Kittanning, PA, which for the uninitiated is approximately forty miles northeast of Squirrel Hill and halfway to Punxsutawney, which will be in the news in about one month. The greeting inside the card, which by the way was a Hallmark Tree of Life card (coincidence?), read “May the warmth of Hanukkah bring you hope to lift your heart, love to light your way”.  By itself this was so thoughtful, but there was more.  The sender wrote the following:

            Dear Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, your family and all members of the Jewish community -

            Our family just wanted to take this time during this season of light to thank you and your community for being a light in our Pittsburgh region. I wish we lived closer to show our support.  Please accept this small donation to use where you see fit. With best regards, …

Just when I wondered if we really make a difference at all comes this beautiful note with a donation, telling me that to this family we make a difference and their donation affirms it and supports us. I will continue to strive to make a difference to meet the high standard set by this family, and welcome all who want to continue this incredible journey with me.

Wed, February 1 2023 10 Shevat 5783