Temple Jeremiah,  

I am honored to have been assigned the task of submitting the final weekly Shabbat Shalom message of 2021. Every year as New Year’s Eve approaches, I reflect on the highlights of my previous year. This year, one of the biggest highlights for me has been joining this amazing community as the new Director of Congregational Learning.  

Joining a community that spent the greater part of the year online was amazing to see. I did not realize until I arrived, but my first Friday night Shabbat service at Temple Jeremiah was the first that was held back in person. Watching everyone celebrate being together, while also acknowledging that we have new boundaries and varying comfort zones was an incredible sight. While everyone knew things would look differently, there was such a joy in being able to finally gather and attend services in person.  

The energy from that first Shabbat was just the beginning. High Holiday gatherings in the tent and sanctuary, as well as online, embraced all our comfort zones, while maintaining a feeling of community. J-Quest started back up again in person with our new safety protocols. From our simchas to social action programs, Scholar in Residence weekend, adult learning and so much more, we have shown that in these difficult times we are doing our best to safely embrace community.   

Reflecting on how things have progressed in 2021, the phrase “V’ahavta Lereacha Kamocha” or “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” immediately comes to mind. Here we are at the end of another challenging year. We are all dealing with life during a pandemic and all the challenges that come with it. Do not forget to love yourself and do not forget to congratulate yourselves on all that you have accomplished. These times are not easy! On the other hand, this past year has given us so much to reflect on in the love thy neighbor category. Even our safety protocols and wearing masks are things to contribute to the safety of your neighbor.   

In conclusion, I want to wish the Temple Jeremiah community a happy secular new year. May we all see nothing but blessings and progression in 2022. I look forward to seeing all of you at even more in-person events in 2022 as we continue to safely gather as one Temple Jeremiah community in prayer, learning, programming, and so much more.  

Shabbat Shalom, 

Matt Rissien