By Tina Rosenblum Ph.D., J Leaders Board of Directors.
It is Kol Nidre in the mid-1970s at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, New Jersey. The leaders of the community have humbly approached the ark and are each handed a Torah, to walk around the assembled congregation. My grandfather is among them, and with a Torah cradled in his arms, his tall 6’4” frame now stretches to the sky in my eyes. It was a moment imprinted in my mind and in my heart. I believe that was the first moment I felt what it is to be part of the covenant.
My grandfather was the apple of my eye, and for him, I was his world. He was a man of kindness, patience, generosity, warmth, compassion, humor, and humility – he was a mensch. More importantly than carrying the actual Torah on Yom Kippur, he lived his life carrying the Torah in his words and actions.
For me, covenant has meant connection to the Jewish people, our shared history, and the future we continue to create together. It has meant seeking meaning and guidance in sacred texts, and in puzzling, enriching, heartfelt conversations about what they mean to me and for us. It has meant feeling the privilege and obligation in making our world better, for all humanity.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks describes it this way.
“Covenant is a binding commitment, entered into by two or more parties, to work and care for one another while respecting the freedom, integrity and difference of each. Covenant is politics without power, economics without self-interest. What difference does it make? For one thing, it gets us to think about the common good, the good of all-of-us-together.”
Goodness knows, I can’t do any better than that. But one question might remain, and that is, “what does my sense of covenant have to do with J Leaders?” To answer this, I turn yet again to Rabbi Sacks.
“Good leaders create followers. Great leaders create leaders.”
I feel compelled to deliver on these words, as part of my covenant. This is one of the ways I hope to carry the Torah in my community.