Rabbi Ron Symons on February 16, 2018
You might be wondering why the JCC opens its doors to the Lunar New Year celebration.
Let me begin by sharing a metaphor I just learned on a podcast by my teacher Rabbi Larry Hoffman of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. While discussing the tension between being particular (having concern for and being interested in the Jewish community) and universal (having concern for and interest in the wider community) he described our world in terms of visiting a museum.
You see, every museum has an array of galleries. In the art museum world those galleries might be labeled ‘Impressionists,’ ‘Cubists,’ ‘Moderns,’ ‘French,’ ‘English,’ ‘American,’ ‘19th Century’…. When we go to the museum, many of us find our comfort zone in one of those galleries.
For example, I always feel very good in the Impressionist Gallery. I like the soft colors, I like the use of light and the brush techniques. That being said, when I go to the museum, I don’t just stay in the Impressionist Gallery. I also go to, let’s say, the Cubist Gallery where I can appreciate the beauty of the art (its boldness, its straight lines, its suspension of apparent reality) even though it is not my preferred art. On my way there, as I walk through the hallways of the museum, I bump into people who find their homes with the Cubist or the French and we have conversations, healthy and respectful conversations, about art at large. I leave those conversations and my visit to the Cubist Gallery more enriched as a lover of art even as I return to my Impressionist comfort zone.
From the museum to the JCC…. While we are inspired by Jewish values at the JCC, we can only benefit by learning about other cultures. The celebration of the Lunar New Year at the JCC offers us an opportunity to better appreciate the art of building community, the appreciation of nature, the importance of tradition, the diversity that is our neighborhood… in ways that we might not appreciate if we just stayed in our own ‘Jewish Gallery’. And when I go back to my own beloved ‘Jewish Gallery’ we might even appreciate it all the more so because of the connections we made with communities that celebrate in different ways.
I hope that you can agree with me: Just as going to the art museum is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon so is going to a ‘museum’ of community a wonderful way to spend our lives. After all, all of this strengthens the fabric of our community in wonderful ways.