I loved where I grew up. It was the type of place where people really did know their neighbors. It was not uncommon to stop by on our walks to talk to people. It sometimes felt like a caricature of a community you would see on a TV show or from a Hallmark Channel original movie. I have always said that I was very lucky to have grown up there, especially because it helped shape my view of what a community is all about and what it means to be a part of a community.
As you might expect, I spend a lot of time thinking about and discussing community. It was never more evident the importance of a strong community than what we have witnessed these past two months.
From the horrific shootings in Pittsburgh to the devastating fires in Northern and Southern California, the power of community was on display. In times like these, the support of community is a powerful force to get through difficult times like these.
On a call with the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, he shared that the outpouring of support from the Jewish (and non-Jewish community) was absolutely felt and impactful to the families and organizations helping these families. They felt the support and love…while it would never take away the impact the shooting will have on their lives, they could feel that they were not alone… and that feeling is an incredible uplifting feeling.
We also saw the power of community in our own backyard as our community came to grips with the shooting at the community prayer services and vigils. The outpouring of love from the interfaith community helped community members come to terms with this new reality. It was a display that people really do believe that we are the same… even if we do not look like one another or worship the same G-d.
When word came out that three beloved summer camps (Hess Kramer, Gindling Hilltop, and Camp JCA Shalom), home away from home for so many Jewish youth, the camp community came together to support, comfort, reflect, and sing. They sang the songs that bind them together as a camp community and epitomize the words of a favorite camp song…. Not by Might… Not by power… but by spirit will they survive. Moreover, as one camp rabbi shared, “Our camp is more than the buildings and the camp grounds themselves…. It is the community and the friendships that are made here that is the real camp.”
It is that spirit of community and being part of something greater than we are as individuals that helps get people through difficult times. That is the power of community and why the Jewish Federation works to strengthen and enhance it each and every day.
JASON MOSS is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the GREATER san gabriel and pomona valleys