Simchat Torah at Temple Sinai in New Orleans

Surrounded by Circles

Simchat Torah reminds us to embrace the cycles in our Jewish lives

Simchat Torah is one of my favorite holidays, because I am reminded each year of the beautiful continuity of the Jewish people.

Circles surround us. We use symbols like the round challah from Rosh Hashanah; circling a bride at a wedding; and moving through the Torah in joyful circles on Simchat Torah to represent the continuity of God, the Jewish people and the cycle of the Torah that is reflected in the very circle of our lives. At the end of our Torah, God draws the very breath of life out of the body of Moses and we begin again with the story of creation and God blowing that same breath into Adam.

Ann at Jacobs Camp this summer

This year I have had the wonderful experience of circling back in my life with a whole new perspective. Over the summer I was on staff at URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp for a week. Jacobs camp is my Jewish home away from home. It is the place where my personal Jewish neshamah (soul) was born. The experiences that I had growing up at Jacobs camp, along with my Jewish home and family and synagogue shaped me into the Jewish adult that I am today. I have been on staff before at Jacobs and it is always a treat, but this year in particular as I interacted with our campers and staff, I saw the whole week with a new understanding of this part of our circle. Growing up and giving back to the next generations with a willing ear, an open heart, love and positive role modeling creates the next generations.

It has also been my great privilege over the last two years to assist with new clergy and staff leadership at my home synagogue, Temple Sinai in New Orleans. Change, growth and progress are as difficult and necessary in the life of a synagogue as they are in the life of the individual and the Jewish people in order to thrive. Watching our next generations be influenced by new ideas and fresh voices is a beautiful thing. As I stood back to get the big picture, I realized how awesome it is that I have been influenced by Rabbis and Educators there in one way or another since I was in Kindergarten. I have contributed my own voice and ideas to the generations in many ways and am enjoying watching the next generation do the same.

The circles overlap in my southern Jewish life thanks to Macy Hart, who was the camp director when I was at Jacobs and connected me eventually to the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life (ISJL). The ISJL is a wonderful combination of Jewish education, Jewish programming, community outreach, Jewish history and forward thinking. I worked at the ISJL several years ago, before taking on the education job in New Orleans…. And now, though still living in New Orleans, I’m excited to re-join the ISJL as the Director of Programming!

It’s one more circle surrounding me as I return to a role and an organization I love, and on Simchat Torah, I’m grateful for the blessing of return and continuity. Chag Sameach! Celebrate your arc in our circle!

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