Jill Johnson’s Invocation from Installation on June 4, 2020

We’re sitting this far back. Wow. I used to be placed at one of the good tables.

Wait – you’re not sitting at my table – but we put each other’s names on our response cards – how come they separated us.

Look how long that omelet line is. I’ll wait till later. On no – I’ve waited too long – now the program is starting.

I hope they come around with more coffee – do you think it’s decaf – it tastes too good to be decaf I think. I’ll be up all night if it’s not decaf.The servers need to stop clanging the dishes – I can’t hear the speakers.

Look at that valet parking line. I knew I should have self-parked.

Over the years, how many of us have heard or even said those statements at past installations? And I’m sure I speak for most, if not all of us, when I say, how many of us wish we were together to voice those complaints at installation today?

So many things about this installation have changed; but the most important parts haven’t. Of course, we’re disappointed that we can’t be together to thank and honor this past year’s leadership team, and especially to pay tribute to my friend, outgoing president, Lesley Greenstein.

And of course, we’re disappointed that we can’t be together to welcome in next year’s leadership team, that will be led ably by my friend, incoming president, Penina Barr. But I believe that this year’s installation is, perhaps, more poignant and profound. This remote event displays who we are as NCJW leaders and supporters and shows us that nothing will stop us from achieving our mission: being a grassroots organization of volunteers and advocates who turn progressive ideals into action. Inspired by Jewish values, NCJW strives for social justice by improving the quality of life for women, children, and families and by safeguarding individual rights and freedoms.

Think about it – Have those words ever been more meaningful than they are today?

Whether we say the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

Or the recent words of Congressman John Lewis “our work to achieve justice and equality won’t be easy…nothing worth having ever is – but while the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends towards justice.”

Or the words from Rabbi Tarfon in Pirkei Avot, “It is not our responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but we are not free to desist from it either.”

Can I ask you to lift your coffee cup, or water glass, or whatever you’re drinking – May we all rise up to the challenges before us and as NCJW/Essex has done for nearly 110 years, whether we’re together or on Zoom or on the phone, let us continue to perform acts of Tikkun Olam and make the world a better place. Amen.