Cheesecake, Kehillah, and the Book of Ruth

By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
On May 16, we will begin the two-day holiday of Shavuot, celebrating the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.

By tradition, celebrating Shavuot includes reading the Book of Ruth, a story that teaches the importance of our Jewish value of chesed, of steadfast kindness and the impact that simple acts of decency can have. The story of Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David, is millennia old, but its takeaway lesson of selflessness in service to others is a timeless reminder of why community matters.

During the pandemic, which has brought hardship to many and uncertainty to all, many acts of selfless service helped our community cope and stay strong. We checked on each other. Made sure helping hands were there for people in need. Learned new ways to stay connected for Jewish learning and holiday celebrations. Most importantly, we discovered anew how relationships can weave community together at many scales, from the hyper-local to the regional. The habits of strengthening relationships that we honed during the pandemic will serve us well in the post-pandemic world. It’s all part of our value of kehilla/areivut, community and mutual responsibility.

We are not out of the woods and there are hopeful signs on the horizon. Even as we adjust to the “new normal,” the challenges of unfinished work remain. Keeping our expanding and diverse community vibrant will depend on nurturing a network of lay and professional leaders who carry out the work through the lens of service to others. In a way, Ruth was a leader by the example that she set—another way the Book of Ruth’s lessons apply to our world.

The Book of Ruth is the story of how one person, humble though she was, brought light to the lives of others through acts of selflessness. The impact of each such act ripples out, touching lives and making stronger the threads of community.

Ruth made a difference for the better. As we all can. Something to reflect upon on Shavuot as we enjoy our blintzes, bourekas, and cheesecake.

Chag Shavuot Sameach!