Program Director's Message - June 15, 2021
Back in November, we had a crazy idea to adapt the Jewish Cultural Festival into something that would be safe for everyone involved - volunteers, staff, and attendees. We weren't certain the path the pandemic would take, but we knew that it was important to continue sharing our traditions, culture, and religion with the greater community. Looking at some best practices of other festivals in the area and how they decided to operate in this Covid environment, we chose to pivot to a drive-thru model and focus on a few Jewish traditions and holidays. It was a potentially risky move and no one was certain how the Dayton community would react, but we were determined to share Judaism in a fun and family-friendly way.
A dedicated group of volunteers, led by co-chairs Sara Faust, Amy Margolin, and Ryan Shannon, began shaping the series of events immediately. The committee planned everything from the baked goods to the educational pieces to kids' activities and so much more. With each meeting, new ideas were shared and the event grew in strength, focus, and scope. Giving back to our Dayton non-profits and social service agencies also became a central theme. This year had been tough on so many Daytonians, so this was one small thing that we could do to support those in need.
Each month, in April, May, and June, we came together as a congregation to welcome hundreds of people to Temple Israel's grounds. We partnered with local food trucks to offer convenient dinner options, we raffled prizes from area businesses and organizations, we shared information on Reform Judaism, Israel, and holidays, and we encouraged everyone to bring food and personal care items to support our friends and neighbors. Our smiles could not be contained, even from behind our face masks. We modeled the the Jewish values of pikuach nefesh (perseveration of life) and gemilut chasadim (acts of loving-kindness), all the while creating a kehillah kedoshah (sacred community) beyond the walls of our building.
Thank you. Two simple words that cannot begin to express my gratitude to this community for showing up, helping out, and volunteering countless hours for the betterment of our congregation and the Greater Dayton region. Your dedication is remarkable. Will we ever do this kind of festival model again? Probably not, but your resiliency and flexibility showed us anything is possible even if obstacles are put in our way. We are the Jewish people. We adapt. We survive. We thrive. May we continue to nurture and grow this holy community for years to come, and may God's light always shine down on us.