Though I am writing these words in the afterglow of our joyous Purim celebrations, I’m already anticipating an extraordinary encounter for the JCCH community this weekend. Many of you will have had this experi-ence by the time you read these words.
This Shabbat we are meeting Danny Siegel: Poet, writer and an inspiration for generations of young Jewish men and women. Listen to his words:
“High theory and mere mind-stimulation are secondary; living itself – in the real world, among people – is the essence… I hereby promise to attempt to be a mensh, a decent, caring human being. Neutrality, non-commitment, indifference have no place in life. To be fully human, we are committed to being caring, sensitive, aggressively compassionate people. Our lives are defined by how we act. We are alive because we perform just and right-eous deeds, deeds of gentle loving kindness.”
It would be enough if Danny Siegel just wrote those words. However, not only has he put them into life himself but, over the course of the last 50+-years, he has influenced generations of young people – myself included.
Have you been at a Bar or Bat Mitzva celebration in a Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Masorti or Orthodox synagogue in recent years where the Bar or Bat Mitzva youngster has not spoken about his or her “MITZVA PROJECT?” Did you know that it was Danny Siegel who created, introduced, publicized, encouraged and brought this project into all of our congregations and made it an integral part of contemporary Jewish life?
Have you, your children or someone you know participated in a USY summer pro-gram such as USY Pilgrimage or USY ON WHEELS? On these programs, Danny Siegel has personally introduced hundreds upon hundreds of Jewish teenagers to MITZVA HEROES in Israel and throughout the USA and Canada. Who are Mitzva Heroes? They are people who make a tremendous difference in the world through their extraordinary acts of kindness and concern for others. Danny Siegel introduced this program into USY summer programs, conventions and encamp-ments to take advantage of teenagers’ natural idealism, energy and search for accessible role models. Through this program, Danny has brought out the best in generations of young people.
“If you always assume the man sitting next to you is the Messiah waiting for some simple human kindness – You will soon come to weigh your words and watch your hands.
And if he so chooses Not to reveal himself In your time – It will not matter.”
Danny Siegel- “And God Braided Eve’s Hair”
Thank you Danny Siegel for teaching us to treat everyone we meet as if he or she could be the Messiah, inspiring us here at the JCCH, and continuing to inspire the next generation of Jewish young people.
Rabbi Eytan Hammerman
P.S. On a closely related topic — I was delighted to hear from a number of you with an interest in assisting with our “Chesed Freezer” project. We plan to work together to fill the freezer beginning after Pesach. Will you join us? Drop me a line – firstname.lastname@example.org. A Happy and Kosher Pesach to All!!