on Tuesday, 03 December 2013.
Dear Friends -
Around the Reform Movement, November has been a month of poignant developments. For those of you who attend services, you will recognize the name “Shmuel Asher Uzziel ben haRav Michael Aharon v'haRav Pesah Esther” from the Mi Shebeirach list. “Shmuel Asher” is Sam Sommer*, the 8-year-old son of Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer of Chicago. For the last year and a half, Sam has been battling leukemia. Sadly, his leukemia has returned and there is nothing more that can be done other than palliative care. The Sommers have been fixtures at the URJ camps GUCI and OSRUI, and Phyllis is the well-known blogger “Ima on and off the Bima.” Thousands of friends and supporters have followed their ups and downs and supported them, Sam’s siblings, and the communities and institutions that have sustained them on their journey.
Another Reform Jewish family has reached a milestone in their child’s journey through illness, as well. Ethan Kadish*, the 13-year-old camper at GUCI who suffered a catastrophic brain injury as a result of a lightning strike in July, finally returned home after almost 150 days of hospitalization. Although Ethan is stable enough to go home, his is not an easy homecoming. He requires around-the-clock nursing care and his home had to be extensively modified to accommodate his wheelchairs, therapies, and other special needs. Friends and supporters around the globe have mobilized to support the family throughout their ordeal and offset the immense task of financing myriad uninsured expenses. Ethan’s journey will be long and arduous. We celebrate his milestone while recognizing how great the challenges ahead remain for him and his family.
Following these friends and colleagues from our wider Jewish community, I couldn’t help but remember my own family’s journey through a catastrophic illness two years ago. Some of it is little more than a blur to me today. I can’t exactly recall all the little pieces that functioned in the background to maintain our home, our dog, our daily lives - our everything - as I was given the immeasurable gift of being allowed to focus solely on my children as we forged our way over weeks and months. I remember all the amazing friendly faces who appeared each day in the hospital to make sure I had something to eat, a kind person to visit with, or even a few moments of solitude and reprieve. I remember the sheer number of messages and offers and gifts. And I am humbled by the knowledge that there were even more kindnesses bestowed upon us of which I was never aware.
Our own journey is not over, yet our successes far outweigh our challenges. And the memory of the loving support we received at the exact moment we needed it continues to bless me and encourage me every day. Temple Israel, and the wider Jewish community of which we are a part, truly works miracles through the compassion and encouragement contributed by each and every member.
As a Temple community, we continue to heed the call when our members are in crisis. Thank you to all of you who have helped with the most recent families’ Bikkur Cholim needs. I am so very proud and honoured to serve such a shining example the very best of Jewish values in action. You truly redeem the world with every generous gift of your time, money, and effort.
Please join me and our Social Action committee - under the able leadership of its new chairs Lisa Faden and Nancy Davis - as we continue these efforts. We will see some of you on Sunday, December 15th, for Share the Warmth. We will see some of you at the food bank each month. But what I most look forward to is the grace and compassion I see in each of your faces every time we come together as a community.
Many blessings to each of you as we welcome 2014.
Rabbi Debra Dressler