Lots of good friendship and good food this weekend at the WJC –Join us!
Tonight, Friday, August 4: Tot Shabbat Service at 5pm, followed at 6pm by our “First Friday” Shabbat Dinner. Bring a pot luck vegetarian/dairy dish to share.
Tomorrow, Saturday, August 5, 10am: Carol Super Gold celebrates her Adult Bat Mitzvah.
And Sunday, August 6, 11am-1pm (SEE BELOW!): a delicious brunch honoring our Chesed Circle volunteers – all are welcome!

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, August 6 at our “First Sunday” brunch, we are honoring the volunteers in our Chesed Circle. These are the folks among you who have simply signed up for our Chesed Circle email list, which means that when someone in our community needs an act of chesed – kindness – these people are invited to respond.

Anyone can join our Chesed Circle; just let the office know that you would like your name added to the list. No meetings! But once a year, we do want to gather to honor our volunteers.

In so doing, we are following a very old Jewish tradition: the Volunteer Banquet. For centuries, Jewish communities would organize multiple volunteer societies to meet the needs of the community. There would typically be an organization for Malbish Arumim, Clothing the Naked,” which provided clothes for the needy, and an Ozer Dalim, “Helping the Poor”, which would distribute alms. There would be a Hachnassat Kalah, “Dowering the Bride”, which would use its funds to underwrite marriage expenses and dowry for the impoverished bride, and a Talmud Torah organization that would support the free school for orphans and children of the poor. The Free Loan Society would provide interest-free loans to members of the community. A Bikkur Cholim, “Visiting the Sick”, society would help care for the sick, and the Chevra Kadisha, “The Holy Association”, would bury the dead. In many communities, the voluntary societies would hold an annual banquet to honor their members (and to raise funds, too, I assume!)

As Jews immigrated to the United States, and Jewish communities reestablished themselves here, these volunteer associations were recreated in new institutional forms. Jewish hospitals and social service agencies were founded. Jewish Federations took on many of the functions of the volunteer societies of the old country. In many, many ways the Jewish community has continued to do an exemplary job of caring the sick and the needy. But institutions can become impersonal, and a sense of intimacy is usually lost. Smaller and more intimate communities such as our own are well served by following the model of the shtetl, and finding ways to take care of our own. We have much to learn from the ultra-orthodox world, which never gave up these caring functions in their communities. Their volunteer organizations are known as gemachs, which is an acronym for Gemilut Chasadim, “Acts of Loving Kindness.” I remember visiting an old friend who had become very orthodox and now lived in a religious community in Israel. She showed me the local phone book, which had an entire section devoted to various gemachs that provided every service imaginable, and for free.

So, despite our complicated and fragmented lives, we at the WJC follow our Jewish obligation to do our best to offer caring acts to those in need in our community. Our Chesed Circle fulfills many of those needs. And so, like our ancestors, we have decided to hold our first annual Chesed Circle Banquet this Sunday from 11am-1pm to honor our volunteers. I especially want to thank Gwen Tapper, volunteer extraordinaire, who coordinates our Chesed Circle and is organizing the brunch. Thank you, Gwen!

I hope many of you can join us, and perhaps you will sign up for our Chesed Circle email list as well!

Shabbat Shalom and love,

Rabbi Jonathan