Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Facing change with courage into the new year


September 11, 2020

Aaron Weil

This year's High Holidays promise to be like no other in anyone's living memory. As the "People of the Book," we have celebrated the Jewish New Year under a myriad of circumstances and in nearly every country on earth. We have gathered in peace time and during war. We have gathered at sumptuous tables free from worry in the Diaspora or modern Israel and have also gathered in shivering cold and fear in concentration camps across Europe. We have celebrated with family and have celebrated away from family and friends in solitude.

No matter the reason, throughout time immemorial, no matter the state of the world at the time and with near disregard for the winds of change that swirled round our heads in times of danger, the Jewish People have gathered to celebrate the New Year.

This commitment to tradition both grounds us, as well as provides us with a valuable tool to guide us through these incredibly challenging times when change seems to be the only constant in our lives. 

As parents we strive to minimize pain and suffering in our children's lives in the hopes that they will have a better life without the price tags associated with their learning and yet, even as we strive to minimize these travails, we are cognizant that it is change itself that had such an impact on shaping who we are as adults. How then can we be trying so hard to shield our children from the very things that set us up for success in this world?

University is a time for change, for making the transitory journey from childhood to adulthood and for learning how to face change with courage rather than fear. For today's college students, perhaps the scariest part of their journey has been the growing realization that, unlike their parents who largely shaped their world and protected them from adversity, that real life is different. 

In today's world, that means not just adjusting to and overcoming a pandemic, but concomitantly managing a roaring need for social change, societal unrest, economic and political uncertainty and of course, that penultimate goal ... a good job after college. That is a lot to place on the shoulders of those for whom control over these issues is as elusive as the answers to their questions about "When is all of this going to end?"

As the 20th century's most famous psychoanalyst and Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl wrote: "When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." 

Hank Katzen, former chair of Central Florida Hillel's Board of Directors put it differently when he said, "the times of greatest clarity and focus arrive when you realize that no one is coming to save you ... except perhaps yourself."

Our students are indeed going through extraordinary change and while we all wish that the circumstances around us would just go away, in doing so, we are foolishly "wishing away" the very lessons that life has put before us and our children.

Central Florida Hillel is adapting quickly to the changing environment at The University of Central Florida. We have evolved new ways of forming community, delivering food, celebrating Shabbat, supporting Israel and standing up for justice in our community when other minorities are afflicted. 

We will continue to evolve throughout this crisis, and beyond, because this is our mission. We will evolve with our students by guiding and empowering them to be the owners of their own connections to 3,000 years of Jewish history while teaching them to be owners of their community today.

Dr. Eloise Stiglitz

Change is not only a constant, it is perhaps the only thing that we can accurately predict about the future. With the help of hundreds of parents, grandparents, alumni and community members who believe in the Jewish future of our people, I am happy to report in this unique time in history, nothing has changed at all. 

Hillel was there during the challenges of the past and we are there today and tomorrow to make sure that your children have the necessary tools to face all the challenges ahead as proud Jews with strong traditions and an eagerness to face change head on, for their future and our own.

Aaron Weil

Executive Director & CEO

Central Florida Hillel

Dr. Eloise Stiglitz

Chair of the Board of Directors

Central Florida Hillel


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