For more than a year, I’ve been working with Dr. Ron Wolfson to plan a ten-day lecture tour to visit communities across the South. Every detail imaginable had been checked and double checked to ensure that each of the twelve partner congregations on the tour would have their expectations not only met, but exceeded!
But no matter how much you plan, you can’t plan everything.
Two weeks before the start of the tour, Dr. Wolfson mentioned something that I should have thought of myself: his beloved father, Alan Wolfson, had passed away a couple of months earlier, and Ron wanted a minyan each day in order to say Kaddish. My answer was to assure him we could make that happen – but honestly, my heart began to pound because in the mostly smaller Southern communities we were heading towards, a daily minyan is not always the easiest of things to find or create on short notice.
There needn’t have been any worry, because one by one, each host congregation stepped up with true Southern Jewish hospitality to make it happen. Many of the people who showed up to enable Dr. Wolfson to say Kaddish are quite familiar with the process and frequently participate in such rituals; However, many, like myself, have never been called upon or volunteered to be counted for this beautiful mitzvah. Each of us received more than we gave in performing this mitzvah. Dr. Wolfson thanked everyone with genuine appreciation, but the response was almost universally “My pleasure!”
And it was. It was our pleasure to participate in this process in each of the 10 communities – creating a “minyan of minyans” across the South.
Have you ever stepped up to be counted for a Kaddish minyan? How did you feel about the experience?
Along with the nation, we mourn for the loss of life at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. We mourn, too, for the shattered sense of security and community. We pray for peace and healing, not only with sympathy but also with deep empathy.
For so many of us, living as minorities in America, stories like these are particularly heart-wrenching. As a Jewish organization in the Deep South, we feel a kinship with the Wisconsin Sikh community. We know what is to be a minority, one that is both a part of,and yet often seen as apart-from, the surrounding society. Our heritage is central to our being, and we are also proud Americans. Neither of these identities should be compromised.
When Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson, Mississippi, was bombed in 1967, the Greater Jackson Clergy Alliance “expressed their sorrow and support for the Jewish community” by organizing a “Walk of Penance.” They took a stand to say that the actions of a few angry individuals did not reflect the views of the entire community.
At a time like this, we must strive to remain a part of and not apart from. We must educate ourselves about our neighbors, so we can be advocates for them as well as for ourselves. We must continue to work for peaceful progress.
May the Sikh community of Wisconsin find similar support and peace in the wake of their tragedy. And may we all renew our commitment to be good neighbors, and good friends, to all of our fellow Americans.
L’shalom – to peace.