On September 17, the past presidents were honored at the Queens Jewish Community Council’s Testimonial Dinner. This year was the 50th anniversary of the incorporation of the organization.
People tend to recognize the first president and the current president. Those in the middle tend to get lost. This is a mistake. Every president has a share in the organization’s success and its continuing viability. If one president had not done his or her job the organization could have folded. There are organizations that had dynamic leadership when they were created and then fell apart once the dynamic leader was no longer in charge.
Others who are almost never mentioned are the board members and other volunteers. They may not have the title of president, but their efforts were an important part in having the organization last for 50 years. The names of the past presidents are listed on the stationery and were mentioned at the dinner. The names of the board members and other volunteers are not listed. Their names and the knowledge of their accomplishments has been forgotten due to the passage of time.
This also applies to individual Jews. The fact that each one of us is here today is a miracle. Throughout Jewish history there have been tragic events that have caused loss of countless lives. Some examples include the battles with Rome that led to the destruction of the Second Temple, the Inquisition, the pogroms, and the Holocaust.
There has also been loss to the Jewish community through spiritual attacks such as forced conversions or assimilation and intermarriage. Also, if one of my ancestors was unable to have children or if their children died young, the line would have been lost.
My knowledge of my family’s history is very limited. I have no idea if my ancestors were subject to any of the trials and tribulations listed above, and if so, how they survived. I will never know their names and where they were from.
There are now tests that can show where your ancestors came from. They have limited use but do supply a small window of our past. The tests do point out that our ancestors are still a part of us even today. Their DNA is part of our DNA. Their legacy continues through us.
There is another group whose genetic makeup is not in our body but whose importance cannot be understated. Throughout the generations there must have been nonrelatives who, through their conduct either directly and or indirectly, helped my ancestors survive physically or spiritually as Jews. I will never know these people, but they are just as important as my descendants.
Our being here beats the odds. Thus, on this Rosh Hashanah we have to think why we had the merit of being born with a direct family line back to the beginning, when so many other families were wiped out. It is a gift that we should not take lightly.
Each one of us has a special mission, which isn’t always easy to figure out. Sometimes we might be doing our mission and not know it. Since we do not know why we are here we must use our time here wisely and try to accomplish as much as possible. If we use our time productively, such as learning Torah and helping others, we have a better chance ending up doing what we were placed in this world to do.
May we all be inscribed in the book of life for a sweet year full of joy, happiness, and good health, and hopefully this will be the year when we accomplish what we were put here for.