January 2021 Newsletter

Shvat 5781

My fellow Chaplains:
I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy.

Extrapolated from the Talmud is the expression, “we don’t see things the way they are. Rather we see them the way we are!”

What a year this has been! While there have been many challenges to contend with, especially in our line of work, there have also been plenty of positive moments to reflect on. The selfless acts shown by so many. The deeper relationships with yourself and others. The spirit of teamwork in spite of challenges. The overwhelming show and support of a more human and humane society, treating all people with the same respect and reverence; etc., etc., etc. These are some of the long-lasting and meaningful
achievements and effects we have been privileged to witness and be a part of.

As Chaplains, we have been, and continue to be, designated as “essential workers”. This is not something to be taken lightly. Our mission is to be that shining light, the torchbearer, the empathetic and sympathetic individual who is there no matter the occasion or situation. Often times putting others ahead of ourselves. We are being seen and tasked with bringing a positive and meaningful approach to those we care for, and we are blessed to have a job that is also a calling. We have a power to influence and inspire those around us, especially to those who potentially need it most. Let us continue to rise above and beyond and continue to lead the way.

We have an obligation to create a community atmosphere even (or even more so) during this pandemic. Community is extremely important. It is where we meet face to face and give each other strength. It is where people know who we are, and miss us when we are not there. Community is society with a human face. It is the redemption of our solitude.

Be kind. To be kind is more important than to be right. Many times, what people need in not a brilliant mind that speaks but a special heart that listens. We must answer hatred with love, violence with peace, resentment with generosity of spirit and conflict with reconciliation. Jewish literature speaks of “Tikkun Olam” - The Repair of the World. If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the world that God has left for you to complete. But if you only see what is wrong and what is ugly in the world, then it is you yourself that needs repair.

Covid will eventually be a thing of the past, but the lessons in life we have acquired and our attitudes to them will remain and flourish long after Covid is designated to the history books.

This pandemic has also humbled us. Greatly. But as C. S. Lewis wisely said: humility is not about thinking less of yourself. It is about thinking of yourself less.

ACCSS as an organization has certainly been more subdued this past year, but we have not been sitting on our laurels. There is ongoing communication with the state, which began immediately after the pandemic caused the cessation of services and one-on-one counselling, how we can best minister to those we are charged with in a safe and creative

In addition, we have been working on a solution to provide some form of training to all state Chaplains. This is proving to be more challenging than anticipated, but we are hopeful we can come to some arrangement soon. An additional challenge is ensuring we realize that these are extraordinary times and therefore these potential training tools and avenues are only utilized in this capacity during Covid and not continued once in-person
training becomes viable again.

Some have asked about their monthly dues to ACCSS. Essentially your dues go toward training and development, and all associated costs. In the past ACCSS dues were used to pay total or partial costs of training, and / or the cost of enhancing training. It is important to note that while training costs have steadily risen, your dues have not. They remain a nominal $18 per month.

Having money to spend on training puts us in a better position when discussions for training take place with the state. When ACCSS commits to help defray the cost of training or to pay for certain elements of a training, it shows the state how serious we are and it helps them realize that we will make it work no matter what. It also helps them appreciate that it is a partnership and they are therefore more willing to respond positively.

At the same time most of what ACCSS deals with takes place behind the scenes with the various stakeholders, and we strive to maintain full transparency when possible.

Congratulations to the newly elected board members, Hector Heredia and Georges Carole, as well as the incumbents who won re-election. I am looking forward to working together with them in advancing the needs and concerns of the chaplaincy. A big thank you to outgoing board members Steve Gomez and Ted “Bear” Jackson. Both of whom have contributed greatly to the chaplaincy as a whole and to their respective faith groups
as well. ACCSS wishes them well in all their future endeavors and projects. Thank you also to Gemma Benton who was ACCSS coordinator. Join me in wishing them well and good luck in their new endeavors.

ACCSS will continue to lead the way in ensuring the Chaplaincy is given the tools necessary to fulfill our important roles and how we can best be a part of the rehabilitation process of those we are tasked with helping. Please reach out if there is an area of concern which we could address.

We are constantly looking for ways to improve and welcome any and all suggestions you may have. We are looking forward to being able to see each other once again, hopefully real soon.

Let this be a year of true freedom. True freedom means more than losing your chains. It involves developing the capacity to think, feel and act for the benefit of others. And may this be the year when we finally realize the ultimate redemption, when God will lead us out of this dark and bitter exile, speedily in our days. Amen

All the best,

Rabbi Benzion Lew