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Jonathan Wang

April Newsletter

I had the extreme pleasure of getting to hear Rabbi Sharon Brous from the Jewish community of IKAR in Los Angeles talk about her book, The Amen Effect. One particular story she shared from her book affected me deeply. Rabbi Brous describes the tradition of an ancient pilgrimage that happened at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Thousands of people would travel from near and far. For most it was a once in a lifetime trip that required years of saving and planning where you made your way to Jerusalem and climbed the grand staircase to enter through a decorated archway to a giant courtyard. The ancient tradition was that when you enter the courtyard you would turn to your right and join a procession walking around the courtyard counterclockwise.

But not everyone turned to the right. The old tradition also asked that if you were suffering, grieving, lonely, or in need, you would turn to the left and walk the courtyard in the opposite direction of the masses that have turned to the right. And as those in pain walked clockwise around the complex, those who would encounter them going in the other direction are called to stop and inquire of those in need, “What happened to you?” or “Please tell me your story.” This tradition does not allow you to walk by those in need and ignore them. You MUST stop and acknowledge them, and in the very least BE WITH THEM for a brief moment.

I see the staff here at JFCS East Bay stop and acknowledge people in need every day. We exemplify that ancient tradition in the daily work that is built into the foundation of our organization – be it serving refugees, Holocaust survivors, or young children in need of assistance. And you can join us in lifting up this compassionate tradition. As we approach National Volunteer Week, think about what you can do to circle to the right and then stop to acknowledge someone. I want to recognize and thank all of our amazing volunteers working with our staff. Your work does more than you will ever know.

If you want to join our volunteer team, contact us at

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