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A Little Schmutz Is Good for the Soul

11/14/2021 10:10:33 AM


Luke Colaciello

During the High Holy Days (and even before they start) we ask a lot of questions of ourselves, both individually and collectively: What were my transgressions in the past year? How do I find forgiveness for myself and for others? Where am I right now and where am I headed? How do I bring acts of tzedakah into the world? The list goes on and the questions don’t get any easier. So now what?

I find it interesting that following the High Holy Days, we move right into eating and dancing. Shouldn’t we be answering these really important questions we just posed while our souls are nice and clean?! But maybe a clean soul isn’t conducive to finding answers to these types of questions. Perhaps there is something to be said for having a little schmutz on our souls before getting down to the hard work of tikkun olam. So, now that my soul is slightly re-schmutzed, here is some of the work I am hoping to manifest this coming year.

Expressions of Gratitude. As a form of bearing witness to another human being and their actions, I find the simple utterance of “thank you” to be a powerful gift. In this vein, I share my deepest gratitude for all of our congregants, guests, and volunteers who filled our spaces with life, care, and soulfulness during the High Holidays. Your presence was a blessing. And to our  beautiful musicians, our hard-working CBE staff, our wonderful rabbi, and our dedicated board members—thank you! And lastly, a big toda raba to all who contributed to our High Holiday appeal and to the amphitheater fund. We said “let there be an amphitheater and there was an amphitheater, and it was good!” It wouldn’t have happened without you.

Honoring the Stories of Others. During Yom Kippur, Rabbi Jamie invited us all to think critically about what it means to reckon with racial injustice in our country. For me, part of this work is opening ourselves up to listening to and accepting the lived experiences of those who are different from us. This is a crucial learning piece of the LGBTQ+ allyship Safe Zone training I facilitated in October (and will offer again in the Spring) and a skill that can be acquired. It is a skill I hope to continue to refine in the coming year as part of the practice of engaging in compassionate action.

Building Community. From an organizational point of view, I have spent my first three months as Executive Director absorbing as much information about our community as possible… which is a lot! Of the many things I’ve had on my mind, thinking through what it means to be a volunteer at Congregation Beth Evergreen is in the top ten. I’ve learned quickly that without our volunteers, not much would get done at CBE, or least not in a smooth and organized manner. I want to ensure that volunteering for CBE is a meaningful and engaging experience and I need your help! I’d love to hear from you all on how we can continue to foster a culture of volunteerism aligned with our core values.

It’s a new year and a new opportunity to bring forth creations of goodness and equity to our world. So, grab a schmatte, get ready to schvitz, and let’s get to work on that schmutz!

Wed, December 1 2021 27 Kislev 5782