As we approach Rosh Hashanah, I’m feeling both frustration and awe

  • Posted on August 31, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, I’m feeling both frustration and awe

Late August is such a busy time, with kids getting ready to go back to school. My older daughter Katie, a chemistry major, will be returning for her second year of university, living off campus in a house. We adjusted to her coming home in April at the end of first year, four of us back to living under one roof. Now, we are preparing for the next adjustment, when we drop her off at her house, and drive away, my heart already missing her terribly, but forging on, as she blossoms into adulthood. Fortunately, Lindsay, our 16-year-old, is still with us, getting ready for (hopefully) in-person classes for grade 11, and trying to return to a normal schedule and high school experience.

As we transition to school, I also reflect on Rosh Hashanah, the upcoming holiday to mark the Jewish New Year, which lands early this year, in sync with the Jewish calendar, the first Monday in September. The year will be 5782. With the back-to-school craziness and the on-going pandemic, we wonder how we will mark the occasion.

Rosh Hashanah is a celebration. In pre-pandemic times, synagogues are packed, each seat filled to participate in services, followed by eating apples and honey that represent a “sweet year” ahead. Our family hosts lunch that day, a tradition we took over from my Aunt Helen. We have up to 60 people in our home, filling up our dining room and spilling out to our backyard, my father and his three siblings, ages 80 to 94, grateful that we have a way to keep the growing family together for these precious moments. As we welcome our guests, I glance around the room, and my mother gives me a proud nod. It’s an afternoon of hugs, catching up with cousins, aunts, and uncles, meeting new babies, and celebrating. Given rising COVID cases, it will be another year where we are unable to have this tradition.  Living in Toronto, we have been very conservative, in lockdown from December to July. Things are slowly opening, but we are not ready to go back to what was. I am frustrated and sad.

Rosh Hashanah is the first part of the “high holidays,” as 10 days later, we mark Yom Kippur, a solemn day, where we ask others and God for forgiveness. It’s a day of fasting, prayer, and reflection. We use the term the “Days of Awe” a time for serious introspection. It’s another year of not going to services to be with our community, as these emotions wash over us. Again, more sadness, more frustration.

Aside from the pandemic, we also have the backdrop of what it’s like to be a Jew. Over the last many months, the tensions that arose in Israel brought that front and center to the conversations and feelings all over the globe. Katie, Lindsay and their friends were watching what was posted on social media, trying to decipher messages. Police warned Jews to stay inside, as there was vandalism and aggression in the streets. We felt fearful. My husband and I tried to find words to explain how different their experience has been to ours. One day, I drove by the sign pictured above in a bus shelter and was floored. I’ve lived here my whole life and have generally felt free to live and participate in Jewish life. Seeing the sign, I felt mixed. Very happy to have this powerful message out there, yet sad that it was somehow required.

This now leaves me thinking about Avanade, starting my 11th year here, days away from launching FY22. We have been busy with strategic planning, on the heels of a very successful FY21. Given the upcoming Jewish holidays, I’ve been reflective. I’m proud to be part of an organization that has been so focused on providing a great employee experience, everything from launching well-being weeks, hearing what’s on our employees’ minds from quarterly surveys, offering Alternative Work Weeks, introducing the Employee Share Purchase program, receiving the thank you bonus … the list goes on and on, and is quite impressive. But above all of that, what makes me most proud, the one thing that really stands out, is the leadership support for diversity and inclusion, and the messages from Pam and the Executive Committee, taking a supportive position on very challenging social issues over the past 18 months. We have worked hard to learn from each other, to gain new perspectives, to shine the light on issues that are very personal, and spill over to the workplace. There have been platforms to talk about what it’s like to be African American, Latino, a woman, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a Muslim, a Jew. We have heard several times how important these issues are to each of the EC personally, and it shows.  That takes courage and I will always be grateful for that. In short, I’m in “Awe.”

I’ll be off work for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We’re still figuring out what we’re doing on those days, but I feel I must mark them, continue to say they are different, and require time away from work. 

For those of you who will be celebrating the upcoming holidays, I wish you Shana Tova, a “good year,” and “an easy fast,” hoping and praying for normalcy in the year 5783.

Veronica Sosa

Thank you for sharing Pam!!

September 14, 2021

Andrea Richardson

Thanks for sharing!!!

September 14, 2021

Charles Zaragoza

A wonderful heartwarming true story that restores your faith in humanity. Restoration that IS needed today. Thank you Pam - Shana Tova and the best to you and your family. 

September 9, 2021

Leiby Kandyba

Gmar Chatima Tovah

September 9, 2021

Andrew McGregor

Thank for sharing your faith and I am heartened that this is a place where you still can.

September 8, 2021

Mary Rosevear

Shana Tova Pam!  I appreciate your insight to a religion that is not my own.  I am a bit sad that you won't partake in the traditional celebration that your family has known.  Knowing you, you will create a beautiful way for your family and friends to celebrate...to shine the light...and maybe start a new tradition that will carry on for many generations.  

September 7, 2021

Nicola Harris

Lovely insight - thanks for sharing!

September 7, 2021

Joshua Fink

Shana Tova! Best wishes for a sweet year to all of our families, colleagues, and friends!

September 7, 2021

Mona Dhanjal

Leshana tovah tikatevee v’tichatemee

September 3, 2021

Philippe Sebag

shana tova oumtoukha from Paris (France) 

September 3, 2021

Chaya Green

What a beautiful, relevant, and poignant experience you shared - one that definitely resonates with me as we enter the new year. Thank you and Shana Tova, Pam!

September 2, 2021

Eli Kling

Shana tova umetuka; Gmar Hatima Tova
שנה טובה ומתוקה. גמר חתימה טובה

September 2, 2021

Larry Mathias

Shana Tova to you and your family, Pam

September 2, 2021

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