Our tradition suggests that we use the month of Elul (the days leading up to Rosh Hashana) to be retrospective and conduct a cheshbon hanefesh—an accounting of the soul. Admittedly, I am not a religious scholar, but to me, this makes a great deal of sense. If we are going to set New Year’s resolutions (whether or not we keep them) and if we are going to atone for our sins, taking stock of the year that was, and the state of our soul, seems right on the mark.
As the CEO of Federation, I have been giving thought as to the state of our organization’s soul. While measuring one’s own spiritual growth or satisfaction and disappointment with one’s own accomplishments is highly personal, assessing these metrics for an organization or the community has to be a group effort. Whomever first coined the phrase “it takes a village” was right on the money.
At our annual meeting last month, Federation President Howard Zack provided those assembled with an eloquent summary of the year in review, and highlighted many accomplishments achieved; five percent growth in campaign, movement towards resolving issues related to the Barry Family campus and reinvigorated young leadership efforts were but three examples. Many people left the meeting proud of those accomplishments and commented as much to me in the days following the meeting.
That in and of itself would have made me feel pretty good. But assessing material accomplishments alone is not what, in my view, cheshbon hanefesh is all about. What really made me feel good after the meeting were expressions about people’s feelings. “The event was so inclusive” or “Federation appears to be leading again,” or “I’m hearing good things about what Federation is doing behind the scenes” are statements which indicate to me that the state of our soul is improving.
There are, of course, things I wish we had accomplished this past year. And I know that while we are committed to a rigorous set of goals this coming year, we cannot guarantee success in every arena. But if each and every one of us puts community first, our chances of success will be exponentially higher and the accounting of our communal soul next year will give us much satisfaction.
As we at Federation keep these material goals in mind, I intend to be mindful of the intangible accomplishments as well. I urge us all to do the same in our personal lives—it’s these moments that truly reflect our souls.
On behalf of everyone at Federation, I wish you and yours a Happy and Healthy New Year.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah,