Holy Days a time for reflection and giving

Each year as we turn toward the beautiful autumn season, Jewish communities around the world get ready for our most important holidays.

Called the High Holy Days, these very special 10 days begin with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which started this year on Friday evening, Sept. 18. This is the start of the year 5770 on the Jewish calendar.

This is a joyous time, a time to feel gratitude for our friends and family, our community and our blessings.

The High Holy Days are also a time for reflection on those ways in which we have fallen short, have not lived up to our ideals and have not kept our promises. It’s a time to seek forgiveness from those we have offended and also a time to forgive ourselves for our shortcomings.

On Sunday evening, Sept. 27, we marked the beginning of Yom Kippur.

This is a holiday of reflection, study and self-examination. Most Jews fast on Yom Kippur. Fasting is a way to concentrate the mind and remove the distractions of earthly desires and needs.

It offers a day of deep contemplation and, near the close of the holiday, a special time to remember those who have passed away.

During these 10 days we also take stock of what we have given back to our family, our friends and our community. It is a time of giving.

The Hebrew word commonly used for charitable giving is Tsedakah, which really means justice. For most Jews, giving is about creating a just world for everyone.

Given our challenging economic times and the pressing needs of so many, I plan to target my giving to those agencies and charities that keep people fed and housed. It isn’t that I don’t care about and want to continue my support of other worthy causes.

But basics are basics.

Over the last six years, as I’ve had the privilege to work with the all-volunteer Interfaith Council on Homelessness, we have provided rental assistance to people on the brink of homelessness and today, they still have a roof over their heads. We have also helped put the truly homeless into housing and helped them put their lives back together.

There are several other organizations that work with the basic needs of our Island neighbors. 

The Vashon Maury Community Food Bank serves hundreds every week and is always in need of funds.

The Vashon Community Care Center not only houses some of our most fragile elderly, but also provides meals to more active seniors at the Vashon Senior Center and through other feeding programs.

St. Vincent de Paul and the Salvation Army also have a presence on the Island and help our local families, as does Vashon Youth & Family Services.

When I examine my own life during these holidays, I am grateful. I share a comfortable home with my life partner, I have friends and family that I cherish and a community of caring neighbors.

I hope you will all pledge with me to make 5770 a better year for all of us by supporting these wonderful organizations.

— Emma Amiad is an Island activist and real estate agent.

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