What does being part of a community mean? Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when? This means that being a part of a community means helping yourself, but also helping others, right now.
Community is important to me because life isn’t always easy and I’ve found that when I’ve had the roughest times, people in my community have been there for me. One of the things I like about being Jewish is the emphasis Judaism puts on building strong community, and raises certain community activities to the level of mitzvot. Some of these mitzvot include visiting the sick and attending a shiva. Community is also important for good times, such as celebrating with a bar mitzvah, or entertaining a bride and groom. Finally, Jews create community to be together at other times by building JCCs and joining synagogues.
Currently, my grandfather is sick with shingles. Every time I visit him, he tells me that my other grandmother came to see him, the rabbi came, and many other people have been visiting him. I think that it is important to him to have a strong community, because having so many people visiting and caring about him could make him feel better and recover faster. When I visit my grandpa, I feel like I am doing a mitzvah, not only because the Torah says you should visit the sick, but because I know my grandpa loves when his grandchildren come to visit.
A couple years ago, when my other grandfather died, I was worried to go to school because I was afraid I would cry, and nobody would know why. The second I got to school my teachers were so nice to me, and everybody knew what had happened and felt so much sympathy for me. That day was such a happy day in my life knowing that whenever anything bad happened, I would not be embarrassed because everybody would already know. I’ve also had the experience of comforting other people while they were mourning by attending shivas and bringing food.
Celebrating a wedding or bar mitzvah is one of the best ways to be part of a community mitzvah. I love going to my cousins’ weddings because I get to see all my other cousins and together, we are able to celebrate with the bride and groom. I especially loved my bar mitzvah, because I got to see all my old friends who came to celebrate with me.
Having a Jewish community is important because Jews are a minority. Since there are very few Jews in the world it is important for them to be connected. Building JCCs is important because it is very easy to become connected to your Jewish community by going to a JCC. Synagogues are also a good place to connect to a Jewish community. It is so easy to meet people in your community because you are both Jewish, and you will likely see each other often. When you meet someone Jewish, you already have something in common with them, but sometimes you have more in common than just being Jewish. Making friends is something I try to do as much as I can and being in such a tight community makes it very easy.
Although community is almost always a good thing, it has its downsides. In a small community everybody knows what is happening, and you have less privacy. If you say something bad about someone, eventually that person will know. In Judaism, lashon harah is looked down upon, but still many teenagers gossip. In a small community, everything that is said is eventually known by everybody else.
A strong community is definitely not a one way thing. To be part of a community, you have to give back, not just take. I already try to give back and, as I grow older, I hope to do more. I visit the sick, I’ve attended shivas, helped to make a minyan, I give to Federation and I read Torah at my sister’s bat mitzvah.
Having a strong Jewish community is important because Jews are a minority and should connect with each other. It is also important because you get to celebrate happy occasions, and help make those who are sad or mourning feel better. Being part of a community makes it easy to do mitzvot. This is why I believe in a strong sense of community.