I rediscovered the importance of inspiration, faith, and community Wednesday night at Congregation Shaarey Zedek.

With my husband and family, I attended CSZ’s much anticipated event featuring the brilliant and inspiring Rabbi Sharon Brous. If you haven’t heard of her, take some time to discover her gifts. She is the founding and senior rabbi of IKAR, a trailblazing Jewish community of diverse and dynamic multigenerational souls in Los Angeles. IKAR is a community blending innovative spirituality and strong social justice. Rabbi Brous has been recognized as the #1 most influential rabbi in the US by Newsweek. Her Ted talk, “Reclaiming Religion” has been viewed over 1.5 million times. She traveled here not only to introduce her new book, The Amen Effect, and to give those attending a sample of her expansive wisdom and humanity. She traveled here to touch our hearts. I felt a strong personal connection as I listened to her speak. Joining Rabbi Brous on the bima was CSZ Rabbi Yonatan Dahlen along with the Gary L. Wasserman Artistic Director of the Detroit Opera House, Yuval Sharon, one of Rabbi Brous’s fellow congregants at IKAR. He was introduced as “Opera’s disrupter in residence.” The men asked a couple of questions, but it was Rabbi Brous who captured the night.

The members of our community joining together in the sanctuary sensed collectively that we were in the presence of an electric and brilliant spirit, with a unique ability to bring strangers together during these troubling times. Rabbi Brous touched each of us with her loving and purposeful words: “Even in the depths of heartache, we must affirm life. We must continue to love. “

I leaned in as she wove her stories together and led us to believe that “we must each do the work of building community. That we must learn how we can treat each other with more kindness and compassion, and that our lives, no matter how diversely opposite we may be, “will be measured by our willingness to show up in celebration, sorrow, and solidarity, in joyful and painful moments.”

Rabbi Brous observed that we in the world are in a loneliness epidemic.

She talked about the toll that loneliness and isolation take on our bodies and, on our spirits, individually and as a people. On the bima, and in her book, Rabbi Brous suggests that we turn toward each other and say, “I’m with you, Amen,” and how “it’s our sacred mandate to see and hear each other and love each other in the bad times as well as the good.”

Rabbi Brous tells us, “You can’t escape the darkness. You must acknowledge it. Say it out loud. Acknowledge the fear and darkness that so many are feeling in this moment, especially since October 7.”

She talked about The Mishnah, and how if informed the chapters in her book, and how during ancient temple times over 2000 years ago, people would make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, ascend the steps of the temple mount, and circle to the right ….hundreds, and hundreds of them together. All but the broken-hearted, the mourners, those in pain and sorrow, would turn to the left and walk clockwise. Some of those they encountered face-to-face would look into their eyes and ask them about their troubles, and bless them by saying, “May the one who dwells in this place, bring you comfort.” This ancient ritual is a model for how we can be when we go out into the world. Sometimes the last thing we want to do is leave our couch and seek to know and comfort those who are struggling. And it’s important for those who are struggling to share their pain with us. Rabbi Brous says it’s what we must do for each other.

So, we must take time to look at people and to walk among them and look into their eyes and seek out connection, comfort, and community. Rabbi Brous’s grandma Milly always told her, “Attend the simchas.” And Brous adds, “Comfort the mourners.”

I stayed late that night and waited in the long line for Rabbi Brous to personalize my book. It was worth every moment because of the conversations I had with wonderful strangers I met. Community is the key to our caring mission at Jewish Senior Life of Metropolitan Detroit, where we live and learn and dine together. Where we play and exercise and read and write our stories and share a few jokes and laugh, and cry and get to know each other, together… and then walk the halls arm in arm and ask each other, “How are you doing?” “How can I help you?” “Goodnight, my friend.”

Join us.

Shabbat Shalom.


  • Laura Levine Gumina /

    Watch her for yourself! And a discovery for me.
    Rabbi Sharon Brous:
    The Amen Effect — Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World

    Your words Jo, and Rabbi’s words are healing for me. “Social health” is public health, especially today. Amen to Rabbi Brous! The book called “Together” by Vivek H. Murthy, also addresses the broken connections in our culture. Our global society. The need for human connection, the impact of loneliness on our health and the social power of community, are explored.
    What stays with me is his explanation of the “evolution of loneliness” from millions of years
    in our human history of communities. He explains that this ill health is biologically damaging…it is fascinating!

    human history of communities. He explains that this ill health is biologically damaging…it is fascinating!

    our health

    h “solution


    et, today

  • Janet Pont /

    Jo, I had the same amazing experience as you did, seeing and hearing Rabbi Brous. You articulated what we heard in such a beautiful way with your words in this letter. As a song of the past decades stated, “We all need each other to lean on”.
    I am here to reach out to you for the loss of your beloved Brenda or if you are having a tough day at the office or you want to share something wonderful.
    You are a new and treasured friend.

  • Karen Danto /

    Thank you for recapping last wednesday’s lecture. I was unable to attend but feel very inspired to listen to the ted talk.
    I love the warmth and compassion that you bring to jewish senior life. I can feel it every time I read one of your columns in the newsletter. Thank you for all that you do for this very special community.
    With gratitude,
    Karen Danto

Comments are closed.
Skip to content