Dvar Torah - February 2022 (Global Community Engagement Day)

by Rabbi Mauricio Balter

A few months ago, Rabbi Idit Lev shared with me an idea she had for a project, to attach Jewish/ Masorti content to international celebration days, and I thank her for this idea.

This is how our project was born; it started with a Masorti Olami video for the International Day of Peace, with the participation of Sheikh Yemal Alouvra, Father Piuter Velazco and Rabbi Amirit Rozen. January 28th marks the Global Community Engagement Day and we decided to make the celebration our own as well.

How was the idea born and how was the day chosen?

The first Global Community Engagement Day was held on January 28, 2018. The pioneer of the idea was South Australia’s very own Andrew Coulson, former board member of Engage 2 Act, a not-for-profit organization committed to progressing the practice of community engagement across the globe. Andrew thought that if other things have special commemoration dates (e.g. Chocolate Day on July 7 and Doughnut Day on June 1, community engagement deserved a special day too!

The whole team at Engage 2 Act was totally on board with the idea. But they needed to establish an official date for it. So, in December 2017 they used their social media channels to host a poll to find out who was the most inspiring community engagement leader/practitioner their followers had met. The top voted person’s birth date would be used as the date to commemorate Global Community Engagement Day.

Wendy Sarkissian was the top choice and her birthday is on January 28, hence, this day was chosen as an international day to celebrate the beauty of community engagement and all that it entails.

What a great idea - to promote community engagement by giving it meaning and formality!
I was once asked at a workshop,” what community meant to me”, and I remember that I answered without hesitation that “I breathe community, I was raised in a community, and I grew in a community. Community is my way of life”.

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The Jewish tradition is very clear in this respect:

From the sayings of Hillel: “do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirkei Avot 2:4)

“הלל אוֹ ֵמר, ַאל ִתּ ְפרוֹשׁ ִמן ַה ִצּבּוּר....”ְּ משנה מסכת אבות פרק ב

The fact that 10 men or women are needed to form a minyan in order to pray at the synagogue, which is the highest form of praying in Judaism, together as a community.

At Masorti Olami, we see our lay leaders, who devote their time and frequently their financial resources, as the greatest symbol of community commitment. Our volunteers, living in every continent, devote a major part of their lives to building and helping our communities, our MERCAZ centers, NOAM Olami branches and Marom centers. Each of these activities are what keeps our communities and their members together, and through them, they help the Jewish people keep the flame burning and significant in our days.

I am deeply touched when I visit our communities throughout the world and meet those people, the lay leaders (in Hebrew mitnadvim, from the Hebrew root Nadiv - נדב, not by chance the same root as that of the word Nadiv – generous), are extremely generous and contribute to the existence of the Jewish people through its communities. They deserve my respect and admiration.

If you are reading these lines and have not yet considered becoming a volunteer, contact us at Masorti Olami and we will connect you to the closest community or organization for you to start walking along this wonderful road.

Happy Global Community Engagement Day.
Thank you so much, dear volunteers, both women and men. Let us celebrate life in a community!

Rabbi Mauricio Balter

Executive Director of Masorti Olami and MERCAZ Olami

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