Tolerance in the new year [Commentary]

Unrest around the globe has cast a pall over the usual optimism of Rosh Hashanah

September 22, 2014|By Marc B. Terrill

Jews around the globe will gather in synagogues Wednesday to mark the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. There is a change in the air as fall approaches; schools are back in session, temperatures begin to drop and there is a general atmosphere of renewal. Jewish tradition encourages us to gather together, reflect on the year that has passed and pray for peace and sustenance in the coming year. The collective strength and spirit felt during this time of year typically energizes all to look ahead with optimism.

Sadly, this year's holiday gatherings will have a different tone throughout the world. After a long summer of unrest abroad, in the Middle East and elsewhere, and at home in the Midwest, every person is sharply aware that ill will and intolerance exist even in our modern society.

The importance of acceptance and tolerance could not be more relevant for all humanity than it is today. Actually, we should forget merely "accepting" and "understanding" and embrace the notion of celebrating differences and uniqueness. This is an idea that must be the call of the day — for civility's sake. We must allow no more room for hatred and intolerance.

We are very blessed in Baltimore to live in a vibrant community in which cooperation exists among our interfaith and interethnic communities, civic groups and in the public domain. For more than 90 years, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore has been a proud proponent of social justice and communal strength, bringing friends, neighbors and strangers together as partners in the health and success of our city and region.

Tikkun olam, or repair the world, is a core Jewish value of The Associated. Although its origins are in Rabbinic literature, in modern times, the term has become synonymous with social action and the pursuit of justice for all. Throughout Baltimore, there are glowing examples of cooperation among our diverse communities. As president of The Associated, I am proud to partner with the leadership of Catholic Charities, United Way, American Red Cross, the Baltimore Community Foundation, hospitals and universities, a broad expanse of faith based institutions and, of course, with our public officials in furthering our collective mission of health, wellness and vitality.

Thousands of passionate volunteers across the Baltimore metropolitan area give back through our combined efforts. From planting community gardens to reading to school children, from neighborhood clean-up to grocery shopping for the elderly, our community members are making a difference. And through these initiatives, we are developing trusting and loving relationships.

We are proud of our existing programs that ensure dialogue and lasting impact on our community. The Associated spearheaded a community forum on services for the elderly that included more than 20 communal partners to discuss innovative and collaborative service delivery. Subsequently, we formed an alliance for services for those with special needs. The result was the launch of the Abilities Alliance, which provides an array of secular and religious resources for those with a loved one living with special needs.

We work to stabilize and grow neighborhoods such as the Park Heights community. In fact, The Associated partnered with the Southern Park Heights community organization to build The Jean Yarborough Renaissance Gardens, a 60-unit independent living apartment complex for low-income seniors. This is the first new residential building constructed in Southern Park Heights in close to 40 years.

Every day, there are shining examples of loving kindness happening around us, of Baltimore's citizens working together, doing good and contributing to the vibrancy of our community. While there is still much work to be done, I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead and the strength of our relationships to guide us through challenges and the opportunities.

I encourage all who stand for peace and goodwill to join The Associated and the countless other organizations in Baltimore and the world in making tomorrow better than today. As put forth by Rabbi Hillel who was one of the greatest rabbis of the Talmudic era, "…and if not now, when?"

Marc B. Terrill is president of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. His email is president@associated.org.


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