Messages from Rabbi Russo

March 28, 2015 - 8 Nissan 5775

The Shabbat immediately preceding Passover is called Shabbat HaGadol, translated as the great Shabbat or the big Shabbat.  The commentators are unsure of where the name comes from.  Some say it is from the Haftorah where Elijah announces that it will be a "great day for the Lord."  The Talmud has a story about the "great day" signaling redemption for the world.  For some of us Shabbat might be the big break we need from preparing for the Passover holiday.  For others it might be the spiritual respite following a particularly difficult week in the news.   

The Rockland County Board of Rabbis is in the beginning stages of a marketing campaign to encourage young people to choose Rockland County as a place to live.  We have received funds from Jewish Federation of Rockland County to hire Beth Singer Designs, a marketing firm who will help us run this campaign.   

This week affirmed for us the need for this marketing campaign.  A youtube video went viral entitled "The Jew in Rockland" where anti-Semitism in Rockland was compared to Nazism with disturbing Holocaust images.  I believe the goal of the video was to quiet people who are critical of the actions of some ultra-Orthodox Jews in the county.  I felt this video made inappropriate comparisons between the Holocaust and perceived anti-Semitism.  It also affirmed the power of social media and marketing, even when used negatively to promote a difficult message.    

Our county is complicated with difficult dynamics at play.  This is a tremendous opportunity for Klal Yisrael and for a diversity of Jewish perspectives.  The Board of Rabbis' marketing campaign forces us to confront and embrace the diversity of Jewish thought in the county.  I believe that the Rockland County Board of Rabbis will work hard to promote the alluring aspects of life in Rockland.  This Shabbat HaGadol, let's take a deep breath from the sadness and troubling events of the week, and prepare for our lighter, Passover selves.  Let's restore hope for ourselves and our county with the healing powers of Shabbat and some good marketing. 

Shabbat Shalom.