The “miracle” of the oil that supports the festival of Chanukah is a highlight of December. All across Jewish communities this story will be replayed. Young people will sing traditional songs, dreidels will spin and latkes will be consumed. Yet, this year will bring a little different feel to the revelry. Unless you have been really in orbit, or still reveling in the Phillies’ World Series win, you know that this is a tough time.
The multi-generations that we look at, the baby boomers and our parents, are feeling this economic challenge in a variety of ways. Almost every day there is another article on the impact of the economy on the pensions and incomes of older adults. Likewise, the “trickle down” effect on we boomers who are being called on not only to watch our own money, but often help out our children and maybe now, supplement our parents. Challenging times indeed! One can only contemplate what so many will be thinking about as they light the Menorah this month.
Jewish history always teaches that there are opportunities in e very challenge. This is no less true today. The economic challenges now present to many also present to our institutional community a great opportunity to really model caring. Many of you are members of congregations, JCC’s, and other membership organizations.
This is the time to bring people together to create supportive communities by developing inter-personal and inter-generational programs and projects of caring. Already many congregation shave created information forums on how to manage money and lay-offs. Other programs have evolved to create job banks and resource support for individuals and families who may be in need of short term help. Also, we are seeing the creation of congregation and communal based loan funds and food drives that can serve as a floor for people who find themselves cut short.
Likewise, some communities are engaging their mental health professionals to provide safe opportunities for people to talk and express whatever personal psych-spiritual issues that may be developing. Finally, it is important to remember that some of our older adults may need special attention. Living alone, perhaps without family close by,. They may “fall through the cracks”. Cutting back on food and medicine due to a fall in their incomes may call on communities to make sure people are in contact with these individuals to insure that they are cared for and that their needs are met. The basis for this is to make sure we send a message that we are, as Jewish tradition reminds us, “responsible for one another”. It is a lot easier to be concerned when things are fine. Now, however, when so many are feeling the economic impact of the recession, it is time for all communities to step up and create an environment of caring, support and the refection of fear.
Hannukah reminds of the “great miracle that took place”. It is a lovely story. The “miracle” that we seek now is one of community, caring, support, hope and love. Have a wonderful holiday.
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.