There are many people in our community who never get talked about, written about or honoured in large halls filled with guests.
They are the ones who toil over their work, which is sometimes menial and other times complex. These individuals catch our eye as we exit the supermarket. They ask us if we could use some help and they carry our bags. They mend our fences and patch up our homes. They wear hairnets as they prepare our Shabbat dinners and wear heavy boots so as not to allow a nail to penetrate their sole. They clean our floors and pick up our children at the end of the day.
Yet how often do we actually give them kudos, or celebrate their excellence? When do we – as a community, as a boss or a neighbour – take the time to stop and actually embrace them with sincere appreciation?
These folks are often significant parts of our lives, even though they are frequently not financially remunerated as such. They are the ones who take care of our mothers and fathers who suffer from dementia. It is these people who are there when our parents believe they are being robbed and are angry at having their driver’s licenses taken from them.
The people I speak of are easy to spot, because they are just like everyone else. They love and need love. They cry when their papas die. They cannot think of anything else when their child is challenged in the schoolyard, or when they are made to feel invisible.
We need to see these people. We need to recognize them, as we do the affluent or the volunteer of the year who accepts a glass-blown award with a quote from Abraham Heschel or the Dali llama.
Yes, our community is built on the treasures of the wealthy. But it also stands on the brawn of the tradesman, the erudition of the teacher and the gentleness of the clergy or the kindness of the kitchen staff.
It is precisely because of this – because of their honest and diligent commitment to life – that we must pay homage to them.
We must call them to the stage – the quiet mother and the tired father, the chazzan and the janitor, the caretaker, the bar/bat mitzvah teacher, the security guard and the hat fitter – and thank them for their service, authenticity and love of the Jewish People and the world we share.
The tables are set and the honourees file into the gigantic hall. Hundreds of them find their seats at the head table, as the MC calls the guests to order. She stands at the microphone and announces loudly, with joy in her voice: “it is with thanks to God we welcome all of you here this evening to pay tribute to every man and woman in our community, those who contribute in a significant manner, in a way that ensures our continuity and our very existence.
“Ladies and gentleman, please turn your attention to the videos around the room depicting the glorious actions of our honourees.”
As the lights go down, the audience watches a video about life and its architects. Upon its completion, they applaud wildly and stand in honour of all women and all men.
Finally, the glass-blown awards are distributed.