Greetings from Dingmans Ferry PA where I have spent the last six months at our vacation home. Many of our neighbors whose primary homes are in New York and Philadelphia also have chosen to stay up in the Poconos. Our “retreat to the mountains” has enabled us to meet new people and make new friends that we rarely encountered during our summer visits. With everyone taking advantage of the open spaces and fresh mountain air we have been able to connect at appropriate social distance on our daily dog walks They are a remarkably accomplished group. There are artists, renowned physicians, and well-known legal authorities. My nearest neighbor is a star at the Metropolitan Opera who decided to relocate to bucolic Dingmans Ferry while he is on hiatus.
Relocating to the Poconos has not prevented me from continuing to lead weekly Friday night services for Beth Judah Temple in Wildwood NJ – virtually. I never know what surprises await when I log in. The technology has allowed for connections that would never have otherwise been possible – and has extended and bolstered our Jewish world. Several of our Jewish neighbors in Dingmans have joined our Beth Judah community, along with some of my former students, my closest college friends, and longtime friends from Bridgewater’s Temple Sholom, including the original Temple Young Couple’s Club. And my own extended family in New Jersey and Chicago can all be together as well. The benefit of continuing to connect people with technology (even when we no longer need to physically distance) is evident to me!
These past few months have been very stressful, to say the least. Political division and turmoil in our own country, thousands of people out of work, and COVID deaths in the hundreds of thousands has made for many dark days. While I grieve for the deaths of so many of our fellow citizens each day, I am so happy to see that vaccinations have begun and that we are beginning to see more light and healing.
Staying at home, I have had more time for reflection and creativity. With the imminent approach of 2021,I have been thinking about the opportunities that being home-bound has afforded me. There have been many: writing manuscripts and dreaming up new ideas, cooking and eating new foods, enjoying nature hikes (I even made my own walking stick at a workshop held at a local environmental center), binge watching streaming shows , studying a chapter of Mishneh each day with Leora and spending more quality time with my golden retriever Reba. Thanks to Facetime, I have been able to continue offering my music of comfort to hospice patients and to watch the miraculous development of my youngest granddaughter Evie as she is beginning now to speak in two-word sentences.
Tonight, I will be celebrating the miracle of the 8th day of Hanukkah. The hanukkiah will give us the brightest light of the holiday. As I gaze at my candles tonight, I invite you who are celebrating to be mindful of the trust, courage, spirit, hope, faith, and gratitude that led the Maccabees to victory and a return to religious freedom. Each of us can bring our own unique light into the world and to use it to help move us forward in our lives. I invite you to join me in expressing gratitude for what we have and being mindful and helping those who are struggling with illness, hunger, finances, loss of work, emotional stress and fear of the future.
Centuries ago, the Prophet Isaiah wrote that we should be “a light unto the nations.” May the lights of this holiday season inspire us to help others in need and spread our light to all those places that are still filled with darkness. Stay safe and be well. And may the lights that we kindle illuminate our sense of what we can become and remind us to be grateful for all that we have.
Happy 2021 to you all!!!!!!!!