By Jim Shipley
Shipley speaks 

'WE' - No longer just 'Me'


March 26, 2021

Back in the day, Jews wanted to take care of their family first — mostly because if we didn’t nobody else would. Then we wanted to care for the Jewish people mostly because if we didn’t nobody else would. Governments in Europe from whence most of us came were not friends of the Jews.

In the late 1800s came the longest period of immigration from Europe to the U.S. because Europe was in turmoil. The U.S.A. wanted immigration because of a need for low paid labor. However, once they were here, the government had little or no interest in taking care of new immigrants.

Those days, thank God, are long behind us. The basic needs for most of our people — both here and overseas — are different now, it is certainly true that we, the Jews of the U.S. like everyone else have had a tough year. Ours however has been a little bit tougher. Yeah, we have lived through a pandemic like everybody else, but we have also faced a new wave of anti-Semitism brought on by the attitude and policies of our own Government.

During this year of semi-isolation we have had to take care of family first, community second and our Jewish People in the little time, patience and money we had left.

It was tough because we Jews like to get together, schmooze, take an incredibly long time to talk through problems. “Back in the Day” as we used to say, every urban Jewish community had “Lodges” like clubs where a guy could escape from home, plan events that would raise money for a good cause, schmooze with his friends, and go home feeling like he was in charge — at least for a little while.

Yes, there were Country Clubs for the more affluent — still are, matter of fact. And for those Jews in retirement without funds for Club membership we have “Mickey D’s” (McDonalds), Dunkin’ Donuts and other coffee spots to just, well, hang out.

With the pandemic that social order went away. No coffee klatches. No lunches with the guys. No social/business meetings. No in-person fund raisers. And we stayed home. Some of us worked there instead of going to an office; others to try and find something, anything, to do to pass the time in the time of Covid.

Well, things are starting to open up again. Faster than some think is wise; others ready to fill stadiums this weekend. Either way, it is beginning to happen.

Some of us will never go back to an office — working from home hath its charms — for a while longer anyway. Others cannot wait and want to dump the word “Zoom” from their vocabulary.

Jews like to congregate. It’s in our genes. But this past year we couldn’t. So, look what’s happened in the meantime. Charities suffered. Organizations could not organize. Some great ideas for “The Greater Good” never got the green light. Luncheon meetings could not put enough people in the room to give energy to a new idea or rejuvenate an old one that was still worthwhile.

So, here we are with all this pent up energy. Also “here” are the same needs and projects that needed energy a year or so ago. Yes, still tough to recognize what normal is in the latter stages of the Time of Covid, but we are adjusting.

During this past year we have come to realize the power of people just being together is real. We do indeed gain energy from each other. Especially if there is one among us who has the talent to generate excitement in others.

Being without it has emphasized how important it is — that communal spark that some people can generate in others. That is why we need each other to make decisions and generate the energy to get them done. Whether it is at a community meeting, a fund raiser or a larger cause, it just doesn’t happen without that leadership spark.

You might be the one that can take a group of people in a group setting and light that spark. Or, you might be one that follows that leader and expands the enthusiasm to a wider audience.

Thing is, it just doesn’t happen in a phone conversation or a two-in-one meeting in someone’s office. No. It needs “Crowd Enthusiasm” to start a movement, to put a spirit of getting the job done into a seemingly mundane event or campaign.

And, you could be the one to generate that spark. “Oh no, not me …,” you may claim. How do you know if you haven’t tried? It is coming time to get off the couch. The challenges are still out there. No, we are all not a Begin or a Ben Gurion but we are Jews with an ongoing need for leadership and you may be the spark; the “Me” who becomes the one whom the “We” will follow.


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