Forgiving Those Who Have Hurt Me Terribly
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Forgiving Those Who Have Hurt Me Terribly

Rabbi David Geffen is a former Atlantan who lives in Jerusalem.

Rabbi David Geffen is a native Atlantan and Conservative rabbi who lives in Jerusalem.

Just after 9/11, 2019, I was hurt terribly at the Rosh Hashanah party created by the administration at the senior residence where I live in Jerusalem. I walked out at the conclusion of the program before the refreshments were served, as is the custom, by the entire staff.

About an hour after I had returned to my room, the director knocked on the door holding the special refreshments and the very interesting and artistic book done by a staff member for each resident’s pleasure.

He approached me in a very diplomatic way, initially telling me about the contributions I make because I give lectures in English on the holidays and other topics of Jewish interest. I was not ready to be mollified by this, so I said, “Please, I have heard this before.” Then he asked me why I was so upset, even though he knew why.

I will not explain what happened except to say that we have 70 Israelis who speak Hebrew and a little English and French. Twenty residents speak English, but a few know a little Hebrew. The program was loaded in favor of the Hebrew speakers without any consideration of the English speakers. The only words in English in an hourlong program were by the salesperson of apartments who is Israeli and has learned a little English. The director spoke from a three-page typed Hebrew script on the meaning of Rosh Hashanah and how the staff does everything it can for the residents. That was very true, but then he spoke for 30 seconds in broken English.

He asked me to forgive him and the entire staff because this same program format had been followed for five or six years. I stared at him with my mouth open. He said a few other things to pacify me, which they really did not do. I have been living in this senior residence for three years. Since I write in The Jerusalem Post, regularly, I was asked to write two articles about the place where I live. I was happy to do it. What bothered me so was that “this is the way we have been doing it.” No rethinking what the past had been, and trying to reevaluate what should be done to make the event better.

As you realized, I was trapped in this particular situation. Since this is my home – I guess forever – I had no alternative but to say I accept his apology from him and for all the staff who planned this program. He said, “I can assure you that we will take in consideration all the suggestions you have offered to make the big programs of this nature better.” Clearly, this was a pragmatic forgiveness on my part. It seems I had no choice.

Those of you who know me realize I can think fast, at least for the time being. On Thursday, Sept. 19, I had volunteered to give a talk in English on Rosh Hashanah. I am sending a note to every English speaker in our building that I am inviting them to bring their books in which they have a personalized page. We will have our own English celebration of the New Year. Guess I do need to deepen my concept of forgiveness in the future.

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