We are now in the midst of the Counting of the Omer. The Torah based origins of the ritual cycle (Leviticus 23:9-22; Deuteronomy 16:9-12) entailed a seven week transition from the barley harvest, celebrated on Passover, to the wheat harvest, celebrated on Shavuot. It was intended as a period of joyous worship. In the Roman era, due to tragic events surrounding the Bar Kochba revolt (135 CE) including plague, devastation of war, and persecution that represented the beginnings of what we now call Anti-Semitism, the Omer acquired an overlay of sadness, and its observance evolved as a time of mourning.
While our ancestors mourned, they also persevered. They persevered by doubling down on their values and community building efforts. Academies were founded, fundamental texts such as the Mishnah were authored, and the Synagogue emerged as a new center of gravity for Jewish life. [On our recent Synagogue Council Israel Mission, we visited archaeological sites in the Galil and Golan that attested to a boom in Synagogue construction during the first several centuries of the Common Era.]
This year's Omer has also seen tragedies that have hit us hard. The attack on the Chabad of Poway, the missile barrage from Gaza, and the spike in Anti-Semitism and anti Israel sentiment at home and abroad.
It is on us therefore to mourn, and to persevere. And we persevere by doubling down -- doubling down on our efforts to combat Anti-Semitism and hatred, Sin'at Chinam, doubling down on our core values, and doubling down on building a vital Jewish community.
In that light, I call your attention to a range of worthwhile events and programs taking place over the course of this Omer cycle.
David Bernat PhD, Executive Director