This article was written for the 2009 Why Be Jewish Gathering: Renaissance in a Time of Ration, a project of The Samuel Bronfman Foundationâ€™s Bronfman Vision Forum.
Three years ago, I launched an organization called Kavana, a cooperative, non-denominational Jewish community located in Seattle.Â My decision as a young rabbi to explore this untested path in the Jewish world would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of a retired 36-year-old former Microsoft employee.Â In her, I found a true visioning partner â€“ someone who brought excitement, ideas, energy, passion, and the financial resources necessary to get this off the ground.
Together, we dreamed of building a new communal model â€“ one that was intimate and local, that focused on intentionality and offered a personalized approach to Jewish involvement, and that called on â€œpartnersâ€ in the co-op to play active roles in creating Jewish life for themselves and for the group.
And then this past December, the same individual â€“ with whom Iâ€™d had so much fun over the last three years brainstorming, writing a business plan for Kavana, recruiting a launch team, and beginning to bring our dreams to fruition in Seattle â€“ walked into my office and asked, â€œDo you know the name Bernie Madoff?â€
And boom, the bottom fell out.
In thinking about the theme of building community during these difficult economic times, I find great inspiration in the Torahâ€™s narrative of revelation.Â In reading Parashat Yitro this year, I watched with interest as Moses ascended a Mount Sinai that was trembling with thunder and lightning while God descended upon mountain for the encounter of revelation.Â Iâ€™ve been wondering how Moses must have felt in those moments on the mountain with God.Â I suspect he felt that he had achieved precisely what he had set out to achieve when he left Egypt.Â I imagine this as a moment of great excitement and visioning â€“ with Moses dreaming about what the world could look like, now that God and Israel were to be permanently aligned, with electric sparks flying.