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Elul Insights

Written by: Craig Navias
29 Elul 5782
Community – I am there for you, and I know you will be there for me.
Written by: Ken Aronowitz
27 Elul 5782
It’s very appropriate that we read Torah portion Nitzavim on the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah as well as on the morning of Yom Kippur. The opening verses paint a dramatic picture of the entire Israelite community standing together on the brink of formally entering the B’rit or covenant with God upon entering the land of Israel. 
The Torah is speaking to the importance and power of community.
Over the years for people I’ve met who have difficulty relating to God as being the something greater in their lives, the concept of community as the something greater would typically resonate with them.  
I’ve found the love, support and at times tzurus of community in family and  the Jewish people. However, during the past nine months I was blessed to be a part of a most powerful and holy community. I was doing a clinical residency as a chaplain at the only Level One trauma center in the state of Hawaii. The feelings of being called and committed to serving others through hospital ministry demonstrated by my colleagues was beyond inspiring. But what connected us so deeply was regularly being there for each other helping to process very tough and emotional moments we encountered in the hospital. 
This community of menschen taught me what Dan Nichols was talking about in his song, “Kehillah Kedoshah.” It’s what we strive for through the work of teshuvah and reflecting on what each of us needs to do in order to be better in 5783. The song is a prayer that our individual efforts during these days of awe will move us closer to becoming a holy community with the holiness felt from deep and profound connection with each other.
My wife, Hinda, and I look forward to being among the AJC community for the High Holidays and experiencing a true Rocky Mountain Chai!
Quote from: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
26 Elul 5782
"Neither the individual nor the state is where we discover who we are and why… Beyond the most basic rules necessary for the maintenance of the most rudimentary social order, morality lives in communities and the traditions which sustain them." 
Written by: Alyssa Shenk
25 Elul 5782
Growing up, my community consisted of friends from school and camp, family, and close family friends within my small hometown of Bexley, Ohio. When I moved to Aspen/Snowmass 18 years ago, I was forced to redefine my community. Everything and everyone that I left behind when I moved here was still very present in my life, but I had to forge a new path, expand my community beyond what had always felt comfortable. Being Jewish gave me that automatic community here, a place I knew I could go and feel immediately connected. The AJC became a home away from home, a place where I would always find a familiar face and a warm smile. With the birth of my children my sense of community broadened even more, as I met many new friends and our families became forever bonded by our love of the outdoors and raising our children in the valley. 
As we have witnessed in many instances throughout the world and perhaps even in our own lives, nothing bonds community greater than tragedy. It tests our relationships, our commitments, and our ability to persevere under the most challenging of life circumstances. My relationship with my community was tested in a major way in 2011 when my husband and I suffered the unimaginable loss of our youngest son, Max. Our community of friends, family, fellow congregants, colleagues and even those we didn’t know well, rallied behind us. They showed up for us at the most difficult time in our lives and that meant more to us that you can possibly imagine. We were incredibly lucky to have been so immensely supported in our loss and our grief.
Nine years later, we continue to be lifted up by our community, but as someone who has suffered such a deep loss, I can tell you that with the loss of our son also came the birth of a new community, one we never imagined for ourselves. In her book “It’s Ok, that You’re Not Ok,” author Megan Devine acknowledges that there is a community of grievers that is out there for you after you experience loss. She explains that the “facts of loss which tears us from community, brings us to this tribe.” She refers to this community as the “community of after.” After the dust starts to settle, after you have begun your grief journey, this is the community that you can rely on to understand you without question and help you pick up the pieces of your broken heart. This is a community that you may never meet face to face or talk to via the phone and by all accounts may not have had an ounce in common with before your loss, but it is a community that is bound at the deepest level by compassion and understanding for everything you have lost. My community of after, my Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood (SUDC) family, means the world to me. It is not a community I wanted to be a part of, but it is a community I am proud to be a part of. We offer each other the kind of support and comfort that only other grieving parents can provide. This community welcomed me with open arms at a time when I felt very alone in my grief because as Devine alludes to in her book, “everything is welcome in a community of loss.” This past spring, I attended a retreat with my SUDC tribe. The power of being with fellow grieving parents, to put names with faces, hug, and connect at the deepest of levels was both overwhelming and incredible all at the same time.
Some communities you fall upon by happenstance, others by choice, and many because of your familial ties, but there are those instances in your life when you emerge in a community that you never saw coming. Whatever the case may be, embrace and appreciate your community to the fullest because when life throws you a curveball you will need a community that will lift you up and support you without question.
Written by: Colleen Bailey, Guest Columnist for the Highland County Press
24 Elul 5782
 'Come From Away' review: The true story of the 38 U.S.-bound planes that were diverted on 9/11/2001
In October 2021, we received an email from a Leesburg-Fairfield class of 1968 schoolmate and friend:
Friend: “Don’t know if it’s your cup of tea, but would you like to see the Broadway musical 'Come From Away' at the Ohio Theatre next February 2022?"
Me: "Our cup of tea? It’s our whole pot of tea! Count us in."
Friend: OK. I have a friend I worked with in the College of Agriculture at Ohio State University, who was the inspiration for one of the characters in the play. I’m thinking about inviting her to attend with us."
Me: "A cup of tea and icing on the cake. We are so in."
Click here to keep reading.
Written by: Seventh Grade Hebrew School Students
23 Elul 5782
                C ooperation
                O ptimistic
       not M ean
                M oral
                U nited
                N ever giving up
                I nclusivity
                T eamwork
equalit Y
Written by: Jason Schnissel
22 Elul 5782
“Hillel taught – Do not withdraw from the community…” Pirkei Avot 2:5
                How do you immerse yourself?
Written by: Rabbi Marc Gellman
20 Elul 5782
Consider what community means to you.  To me, community is our third place after home and work.  It is the place where we choose to find each other and at AJC where we also choose to find God.  Here are some wise thoughts about community you might want to contemplate:
An inheritance cannot be fabricated, let alone forced. It can only be assumed by a freedom that has the ability to build on it. When a man forms his life, he begins to create community. He is not only born into community as if by fate, but he has now been called to the task of molding it. (Rabbi Leo Baeck)
All real life is meeting.  (Martin Buber)
Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable”–African Saying also found in the Talmud “even a gibor cannot break sticks that are bundled.”  (Talmud and African tribal saying also found in Midrash Tanchuma 4)
O hevruta o metuta, “Give me community or give me death” (Talmud)
The divine presence does not dwell among a people with a divided heart.  (Bamidbar Rabbah 15:14)
How does one preserve oneself from evil? By each taking on him the responsibilities of the others.  Israel would teach that the greatest intimacy of me to myself consists in being at every moment responsible for the others.  You are not just free; you are also bound to others beyond your freedom.  Your liberty is also fraternity.  (Emmanuel Levinas)
The freedom we see in this land is that which the Polish philosopher Lezek Kolakowski has identified as a modern chimera "which would grant man total freedom from tradition or all pre-existing sense" but ends up suspending him "in a darkness where all things are regarded with equal indifference."
God bless us one and all, Marc Gellman
Source: @thedad/IG
19 Elul 5782
Getting separated from your parents is a stressful situation for everyone involved. Kids and parents alike are gripped with panic, both simultaneously fearing the worst. But in South America, a common practice works quickly and effectively to reunite separated family members. Recently, a viral video of the heartwarming system demonstrated its efficacy after a crying child turned to a stranger for help.
While visiting the Plaza Dorrego in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a boy named Juan Cruz was separated from his dad, Eduardo. Fortunately, everyone there knew the drill. The tallest man gently placed the crying boy on his shoulders, walking around the middle of the crowd to draw attention to the situation. As if some sort of silent alarm was triggered, strangers began to clap as they called out for Juan Cruz’s dad. “Eduardo!” The crowd chanted as they clapped, more people joining in with every round.
The band continued playing, but instead of singing lyrics to whatever songs they’d been playing, they too called out rhythmically for Eduardo. Some people stood, others remained in their seats, but nearly everyone lended their voices and hands to the panicked young boy. Suddenly, the camera pans to the side as a man weaves through the crowd. Helpful strangers point towards the tall man, guiding Eduardo to his son. Juan Cruz runs towards his dad, who immediately scoops the crying boy into a tight embrace. It took just over a minute to reunite father and son, demonstrating just how powerful it is when a community bands together for a common cause.
Written by: Rocky Green
18 Elul 5782
Each year as the High Holidays approach, I tend to reflect on how I behaved during the past year.  I think about how I treated my family, neighbors, friends and co-workers.  Was I good, helpful or kind to them?  This year however, I am thinking about my life in much broader terms.  I am thinking about the morals and ethics that have been passed down to me by my parents and grandparents before them.  Those people who had a huge part in shaping me into the person I am today are no longer with us.  They are my ‘community,’ my beginning, and my past.  In addition, I am looking to my children and grandchildren, my future ‘community.’  I see wonderful, caring, kind, sensitive and intelligent human beings who, each day, exhibit the very same traits that have been passed from one generation or 'community' to the next. Seeing future generations become leaders in a kinder, gentler, more peaceful world is both a testament to our past community and a hope for all future communities.
Written by: Elyse Seidner-Joseph
17 Elul 5782

הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר: אַל תִּפְרֹשׁ מִן הַצִּבּוּר

Hillel says: Do not separate yourself from the community.— Pirkei Avot 2:4

We are doubly blessed to live part of the year in Aspen and part of the year in West Chester, PA. There are lots of different communities that we are in nourishing relationship with, depending on the time of the year. We are a part of the community of music-lovers at the Aspen Music Festival, the volunteers at the Ideas Festival, the members of AJC (especially the Wednesday morning minyan folks), our friends in the Roaring Fork Valley—these are our summer communities. We miss them when we are here in Pennsylvania, where we have just returned after a multi-day drive from Colorado. Amidst the unpacking and shopping, we are eagerly reconnecting with our Chester County communities of friends, family, civic and volunteer organizations and more.
Some communities, large and small, have been easily adapted for pandemic times. My friend Sylvia and I have a 2-person book group. She’s the only person I know who reads more fiction than I do. We have about a 95% overlap in agreement, whether “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” or “don’t even bother.” 
My piano teacher Seymour, age 94, pivoted to teaching his students via FaceTime. We’ve had a piano lesson twice a month but have not had an in-person lesson since March 2020. It’s not the easiest thing to do virtually, but we make it work, and our small community continues to thrive.
My spiritual writing group, multiple rabbinic groups, the AJC Wednesday morning minyan and many other minyanim, and countless ways of maintaining and/or creating community, have expanded and flourished in the pandemic. We all grieved the loss of live, in-person gatherings of communities during the pandemic. The creativity we’ve seen, in shifting to virtual, or birthing brand new communities in the Zoom realm, has been breathtaking. People sometimes talk about “when things get back to normal,” but there is no chance of that happening—there is a NEW normal for communities. What an opportunity for us to stay connected across the country and beyond!
Hillel, and the Rabbis who have interpreted this pithy statement over the centuries, would be astonished at the ways in which we “do” community since early 2020. However you “DO” community, Hillel reminds us to be involved, to stay connected during Elul, into the High Holidays, and beyond.
Written by: Ethan Oster
16 Elul 5782
In 1829, Sir Robert Peel established the London Metropolitan Police Force. He became known as the “Father of Modern Policing,” and his commissioners established a list of policing principles that remain as crucial and urgent today as they were two centuries ago. As a new member of the Aspen Police Department, these principles are central to what I am doing each day. The 7th principle resonates with me specifically when thinking about my role in our community.
“To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”
Written by: Tom Kurt
15 Elul 5782
An Elul Message: Community Synergism in Shared Togetherness
This year’s closing Aspen Music Festival the Berlioz Requiem began with going to Jerusalem in the opening chorale. And, this awakened me with a jolt to the sobering Jewish tradition of Yom Kippur closing by saying “Next year in Jerusalem.”
Spirituality includes eschatology as well as day-to-day reality.
Rather than wishful thinking of a sugarplum heaven, think about climate change.
Focus on the shrinking Colorado River while 24 tunnels carry Western Slope water to the Front Range cities. While this may seem selfish, the Utes did not have this problem 150 years ago. Look in the mirror. Immigrants have caused these problems.
And, despite all this ambitious focusing for remediation of ourselves and this planet, simply begin each day with "Thank G-d for the gift of this day." Wherever you are.
Written by: Rabbi Shira Stutman
13 Elul 5782
I want to tell a story about a young woman named Lisa, who moved back home to DC, only to learn that her parents were moving to Florida. Understandably, she felt a little abandoned. 
In response, she did what many contemporary 20-somethings do: she got a tattoo. In Hebrew. “L’olam lo l’vad” it says. Never alone. In that moment, it was an aspirational statement. But by the time she got married, a few years later, she was surrounded by what she called her “synagogue family”: the people with whom she had built community over the intervening years. Under the Huppah, when she lifted up her arm to drink from the Kiddush cup, surrounded by her community, you could just about make out the tattoo. L’olam lo l’vad. Never alone.  
Of course, getting a tattoo was the easy part. Building community was hard. Lisa had to invest. 
In Robert Putnam’s now-famous book Bowling Alone, he argues that having “a social network” matters. But he doesn’t define “network” the way we might. It’s not your Facebook friends and it’s not just what he terms “warm and cuddly feelings, but a wide variety of quite specific benefits…[that] flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks.” Social networks, he says, “translate an “I” mentality into a “we” mentality.”
As an AJC newbie these last six months, I have been so impressed by and grateful for the “we” mentality in this community. It ebbs and flows around year-rounders and seasonal folk, Aspen and Down Valley residents, serious spiritual seekers and kiddush kibbitzers. I know with certainty that if Lisa were to ever land in Aspen, she would be welcomed into this kehillah kedosha, this holy community, with open arms. May this continue to be true in the year to come.
Written by: Jordan Sarick
12 Elul 5782
The next morning, our front porch was filled – crammed – with the modern accoutrements of raising kids.  Strollers, car seats, diapers, high chairs.  We had received numerous offers of help from organizing the piles on our porch to helping with the kids.  The night before, our family had grown instantly from 3 to 5 as we had become foster parents for the first time and suddenly had 3 kids under 4 years old.
We needed the help, supplies, and support of our community, in this case our little neighbourhood.  But our community also needed to help us.  Our friends and neighbours wanted to help and in doing so took a sense of responsibility for us and for our new charges.  Just as tools are sharpened and honed by use, so too our community grew stronger because it grew to accommodate our needs.
Luckily for us, we haven’t always needed to be helped.  There are times when we have had “baseball mitts on both hands” and unable to throw the ball back.  There have been times when we have been able to help.  But the thing about community is that it is not a zero-sum game.  There is no tally and the score doesn’t matter.  In fact the reverse is true.  The more our communities accommodate one another’s needs and help one another, the stronger our community gets – together.  The safety net of our community is strengthened the more we use it and the more we help when required and asked.
Our Aspen Jewish Community holds multitudes (to paraphrase Whitman) of communities and as a community and as individuals we are enriched when we contribute to it.  But this isn’t a diminishing resource, we grow our community and ourselves by helping and being helped; by needing and being needed.  This community is here for us and together we make it stronger, tighter, and more brilliant – whether we need it or are needed.
Written by: Ron Kokish
11 Elul 5782
A “community” is a cooperating common-interest group.  Humans live in communities because we aren’t good at surviving alone but we are good at surviving in small, co-operative groups. Most of us, though, aren’t so good at cooperating with people substantially different from ourselves.  Consequently, our communities develop in part, via “schizogenesis;” creation by division, the process of defining communities by their differences from other communities; different gods, dietary laws, economies, dress codes, skin colors, smells, sexual mores, languages, rules of conduct . . .  So many differences.  This process helps create us groups wherein we feel accepted, safe, even loved; groups within which individuals belong to one another and thrive.  Community fosters the joys of Shabbat and the renewal of The Days of Awe.  It lends meaning to individual lives and it lends meaning to wars that destroy them. 
Many pre-Christian civilizations glorified war of aggression simply because they enriched winners at the expense of “others.”  Victory parades featured booty and captives, some for ransom, some to be tortured for propaganda and entertainment, most to be enslaved.  War was after all, primarily about enrichment.  Today, our rhetoric is peaceful. Modern communities don’t admit to starting wars for economic gain.  We don’t seem to fight less than ancients, but it comforts us to believe we are only defending ourselves from aggressors who would destroy our beloved community and its cherished values.  “Aggressors” of course, claim to be defending themselves from us.  Modern parades don’t openly feature slaves and booty and believing our rhetoric allows us to feel superior to heathens and barbarians who were more candid about their wars.  Little else has changed.
Community! We can’t live without it.  Can we live with it?
Written by: Niki Delson
10 Elul 5782
My ancestors came from the shtetl Orlova in Belarus. “Shabbat was kept very strictly in our little township. Everything was done to give it grace. Special clothes, holy quiet, cholent, pie, and grapes with the kishka added something special.”
Great-uncle Nachum Yudel , whose house had burned down, was first in my family  to emigrate to “the land of gold.” One by one, relatives joined him and re-built Jewish Community in New York. Grandma Anna could hardly wait her turn.
Poverty defined Jewish immigrant life on NYC's Lower East Side. Living together and sharing resources was familiar. The 1920 Census lists my grandparents, their 4 children, my grandfather’s sister, her husband and their children living together.  As older, successful relatives moved out, married children moved in until they too could afford their own apartments.
I was born in the Bronx. On  my 5th birthday we moved into a house in Queens. We were four children. Relatives lived with us during most of my early childhood. Grandma Anna, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived within walking distance. Almost everyone I knew was Jewish. Orlova traditions were adapted, or forgotten, in this new, American shtetl.
In the 1970’s, my own young family of four followed a wave of New Yorkers to Northern CA. We bought a fixer-upper on 3 acres in the redwoods, within walking distance of the ocean. A friend converted an out building into a usable cabin. Another young family moved in with a trailer, one in a teepee, and a couple in a school bus. We planted a garden, ate together and shared child care. Because there was no defined Jewish community, we created one. It was not hard to find other Jewish folks. We brought with us the recipes of our grandparents. We knew Yiddish songs. We built a sukkah with forest materials and wildflowers. Those who knew how, said our prayers in Hebrew. Always, we joyously shared our Jewishness with our non-Jewish friends.
Jewish community is not my only community, but it’s the one in my DNA.
Written by: Sima Oster
9 Elul 5782
When I interviewed for this position, I was asked to prepare a lesson for our Hebrew School students. After much consideration, I decided to teach a lesson about community, and used the aspen tree as my prime example. 
As many of you know, aspen trees have a unique root system. Above ground, aspen grow as individual trees, but below ground they're enlivened by one interconnected set of roots. Aspen are the most expansive growth of trees to share a common root system. This means they are each individual trees, so one living organism, and a connected group, so also a living community—at the same time!
Written by: Fran Harris
8 Elul 5782
During my lifetime, I have been fortunate to be a member of many communities.
My earliest remembrance of being a part of a group that was separate from my family was when I was two years old. My parents moved to an apartment in Jamaica, NY where there were six families who had children my age. Our parents would baby-sit us. If I came home from school looking unhappy and a mother saw me from her window, she would invite me to her apartment for hot chocolate. This group, that is the children of Briarwood Terrace, would sleigh ride in a vacant lot across the street. We would roller skate down a steep hill. During high school, we would go on dates and dance class together. To this day we communicate.
When I was sixteen, I went on a bicycle trip for 2 ½ months throughout Canada and part of the United States. We were a very tight knit group. We camped out in the National Parks and stayed at Y’s in the cities. Our guides were on their honeymoon and what a time they had keeping up with us.
In college, my dorm became a community. The girls (at that time girls only) would talk through the night, study together and help each other.
After I was married, my husband and I moved to Stanford University in Palo Alto. That was 57 years ago and we still live there when not in Snowmass. It has been a wonderful community. Like my childhood, our block had several families with children about my children’s ages. When the children were little, parents would take shifts watching the children play in the cul-de-sac. My daughter’s and son’s friends would go in and out of each of the family’s homes during the day. The parents and children formed a bond that has lasted all these years.
Other communities I have been a part of and enjoy are my book group of 31 years. And of course, the Aspen Jewish Congregation is a welcoming wonderful place to share our heritage and friendship.
Written by: Isaac Sonett-Assor
6 Elul 5782
My favorite words of the High Holy Days liturgy are found towards the very end of Yom Kippur. Ata notein yad l’fosh’im. You extend a hand to those who have strayed. We recite these words as the sun begins to set, asking that the gates of teshuvah, of return, be kept open just a bit longer as we commit to our hopes for ourselves and our community in the new year. I love these words because they remind me that, despite my best intentions to grow, I can’t, nor do I have to, do it alone. 
This message feels especially important to me this year as Caroline and I prepare to become parents this November. As we have been thinking about the values and lessons we hope to impart as our child grows up, we find ourselves taking stock of our own shortcomings and undesirable habits. In her book The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Dr. Wendy Mogel repeatedly reminds us that children learn far more from our example than our words. And so, I feel the weight of this year’s holidays more than ever before as I consider the role model that I wish to be for our little one. 
In beginning this journey, I have been heartened by the many kinds of support we have received from our family, friends, and community. From unexpected little tips and funny stories of early parenting mishaps to assurances that we will get through all the ups and downs, we are constantly reminded that there are so many helping hands outstretched to us. And while preparing for parenthood certainly provides inspiration to take teshuvah all the more seriously, I must remember that growth I hope to achieve need not happen overnight. Tradition teaches that “the Holy One does not come to us with excessive demands.” What matters is that I can imagine the type of example that I hope to set for my child, so that I can take daily strides toward this goal. And when I falter, may I always show my gratitude for the cherished village that pulls me through.
Written by: Chuck Shenk
5 Elul 5782
I grew up in Bexley, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. Bexley is a town of 15,000 people and is surrounded by Columbus and other suburbs and therefore could not grow. We have a Mayor, City Council, police department, library, and school system. I was born in Bexley and still have a home there. 
I would not exactly compare Bexley to Mayberry from the Andi Griffith show but there are similarities. We could walk to school, Temple, parks, basketball courts, public swimming pools, restaurants, and more. Yes, and everyone knew your name. Joyce and I raised our two daughters in Bexley. Our oldest, Alyssa, married her high school boyfriend. OK maybe it should have been called Mayberry.
I thought Alyssa and Ben would raise their children there and they would become the 4th generation of Shenks to live in Bexley. I was sure of it. And then one day, they packed up their car and dogs and moved to Aspen and then to Snowmass Village. Andi, our other daughter, also moved to Snowmass Village.
All of our grandchildren were born in Aspen. Years ago, I asked Eli, our grandson, if he would like to move to Bexley. Eli asked me if Bexley had mountains or lakes or skiing and my answer was the same, no, no, no. Eli responded, "I don't think so."
So Mayberry, I mean Bexley was not for my children or grandchildren. But believe me, it is a special mid-western lifestyle that is second to none. A really great Community.
Shared by: Shereen Sarick
4 Elul 5782
Written by: Ella Rose Sherry Gunshor
3 Elul 5782
Community is not a physical place, it's an environment. An environment of people who show support to you. When I had my Bat Mitzvah I felt like a big part of the community, the AJC taught me more about being Jewish and what I could do to be part of any community. After that experience I have been able to support this community just like they helped me. As I continue to work at Hebrew School, I hope to welcome new people to the congregation just like they welcomed me. Being part of this community has taught me to be open to everyone's thoughts and opinions and in return people will do the same. Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” This is what community means to me.
Written by: Joan Wallis
2 Elul 5782
As a child growing up in a large Orthodox synagogue, the High Holidays were a source of confusion for me. Why were we all in the synagogue? Why was this day so important? The women on the women's side; checking out the new outfits their friends were wearing, and gossiping. The men seemed more interested in what the Rabbi and Cantor were saying, but there was a lot of kibitzing in their section as well.
Not until I became an adult and learned about the meaning and relevance of the holiday did I have an "a ha" moment about my childhood experience. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are sacred days for evaluating who we are and who we want to be in the coming year. Being with community helps us figure it out. Connecting with those around you provides a safe and common space to consider the task. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are meaningful days for me. I get to stop and focus on Joan with both my community and the liturgy holding me up -supporting me.
Written by:  Julie Schlafer
1 Elul 5782
Community—what does the word mean?  We can use a wide-view lens and search for meaning globally, or as a country, or as a state.  We can use a microscope and search closer to our little town nestled in the mountains.  I am going to use the microscope and share an experience I recently had in our Aspen Jewish community.   
Not too long ago, my husband, Steve, and I went out for a quick bite of sushi after Shabbat services at the AJC.  Finished with dinner, we got up from our seats at the bar just as an adorable family with a little boy and girl finished eating. The mother shyly came up to me and asked, “are you Bubbe?” I replied, “yes, I certainly am.”  Her kids were excited to see me—a pseudo-Aspen “celebrity” sighting.  The children recognized me from “Baking with Bubbe,” a class I have the privilege of teaching to the students in our AJC Hebrew School. 
This wasn’t the first time this has happened to me.  A few children have recognized me at Whole Foods or City Market when I’m grocery shopping.  The students whisper to their parents—"that’s Bubbe, I wonder what she’s cooking now?”  The smiles and hugs from the kids and the appreciation I receive from parents have been rewarding to say the least.  I love that the students don’t know me as Mrs. Schlafer or Julie.  I’m just Bubbe to them all, and extra grandmother, always available for a hug, a word of encouragement, and some chicken soup.      
I teach the kids about once a month or so, either in my home or at the school, gearing the food to what the children are currently learning. In the autumn, they learned about hospitality and how Abraham and Sarah welcomed the stranger.  We made milk and honey pita over an open flame.  Abraham and Sarah didn’t have ovens, so we didn’t either.  We smashed chickpeas with spoons and made hummus, fried falafel, and sliced vegetables for Israeli salad.  We had latkes and over-stuffed our sufganiyot with homemade chocolate filling during Chanukah.  We baked Hamantashen during Purim and ended the year with a celebration of Pesach with matzo ball soup, and chocolate covered candy matzos.  We have fun while the kids learn the joy of being Jewish through our traditional and cultural foods.  
The family was delighted when I told them I was planning on teaching again, and the little boy is now excited to join his big sister in our school.  The Aspen Jewish Congregation is small and strong, and I am proud to be a member of this loving and nurturing community.   Many of us don’t have close family living in the valley.  I thoroughly enjoy being a Bubbe to the students at the AJC Hebrew School.  I’m pretty certain I get more out of it than they do.  Whether you’re a student, or parent, or even an adult member of our AJC community, if you see me grocery shopping or on the street, please stop and say hello—because that little gesture is what community means to me.
Wed, September 27 2023 12 Tishrei 5784