It is no coincidence, I think, that so many colleagues, during this past High Holiday season, referenced the Mr Rogers documentary. It was a wonderful film that reminded us of the need for basic civility and decency. It also called to mind the power of inclusion and diversity and, to that end, the importance of community and relationships. So now the Jewish year has begun and, with the arrival of Fall, the secular year emerges from summer and the “program year” for so many begins again. So many of us will be busy with “things” and such. The reality of this also calls to mind a powerful word that appeared in this past week’s Torah portion, the word l’vado.
It is found for the first time in Genesis 2:18 and it is in the context of the second creation story when we are reminded that it is not good that we are alone. This word, and its ramifications, is a fitting subject for sermons and articles. However, what it points us to is a not so subtle reminder that we maybe facing a crises in isolation; isolation of people as they age. A recent AARP article, by David Frank,noted that 1 person out of every 3 is “lonely”. Despite out increased technology and growing electronic communities, this statistic should concern us for the impact of loneliness on mental and physical health is well documented. (for the full report from AARP go to: aarp.org/connections2018(https://www.aarp.org/connections) This growing reality of social isolation is a result of many factors. Longevity does contribute to this. We do have more people who are living longer and in some cases, outliving the bulk of their social network. Yet, too many people live in isolation, as their social networks constrict, they sometimes are forgotten. And then there are the thousands of people who reside in facilities who rarely get visitors.
What this growing reality calls on us to do is to not forget that a growing number of people can easily be forgotten. They may not come to events or programs because of a variety of situations and circumstances. As we work with congregational Caring Community groups, this issue comes up all the time and we try and remind them that one of the functions of congregations in this day and age must be to insure that no one is forgotten. Telephone calls, “friendly visitors”, transportation assistance programs, etc, are just some of the ways we can make sure that no one is allowed to be alone. Sometimes all it takes it for someone to reach out to make a connection. Try creating an inter-generational connect program that links teens and young adults to some of the people who may be shut-ins or isolated. You will be doing a mitzvah for all concerned. That Genesis passage and word has so much relevance to our modern society. Take the time to look around and see who is NOT there and why.
Rabbi Richard F Address
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.