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May We Be Strengthened

“Be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened”

Many Hebrew words and phrases, just like most things in the world, are, of course, subject to interpretation. A phrase I've been reflecting on a lot lately is: chazak, chazak v’nitchazek: Be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened.

Because, no doubt, what a time it is to be thinking of those words in literal terms. We are, after all, still grappling with a pandemic. With its arrival came racist and anti-semitic tropes about its origin, floods of misinformation and disinformation about the virus and vaccine safety, and the reluctance of some to wear masks and follow other mitigation measures. Throughout the entire experience, I’ve taken note of those tension points, those bottlenecks in facilitating public health and safety, and wished for everyone to take to heart this idea: be strong, be strong and may we be strengthened. Which means, to my thinking at least, we must think of the group, think of the needs of the whole community, and by doing so, we’ll fare better when thinking not only of ourselves, but of the broader group and by each doing our part.

After all, as a D’var on the phrase points out, “The first part of the phrase uses the singular form; the individual should be strengthened. The second part uses the plural form, indicating two key outcomes of individual strength: not only the individual, but also the collective of which she or he is a part can be encouraged by the message and add its efforts to those of the individual.”

That group effort in service to a bigger and loftier goal is also deeply on my mind as I have started (and continue) to build the infrastructure for 5959 Chicago, a new initiative of Jewishly-based programming, lectures, events, and author talks we’ve officially launched. Not only is it a high priority to build a rich offering of programming in intellectual and spiritual service to the Emanuel community, but also to the broader Chicago Jewish community, and beyond, to help facilitate deeper conversation and solidarity among us all. Which is to say, I’m not thinking simply in terms of one-off events, but of the biggest possible social and community implications for this undertaking; I’m not thinking about events as a thing in isolation, but instead as a tool for tikkun olam.

With that, of course, also comes a deep sense of gratitude to all those who spent countless hours dreaming 5959 Chicago into being in various iterations. The foundation you helped build is part of that continuum that continues to deliver on that mission, each idea becoming a brick in the foundation, propelling it to new heights.

I hope you’ll join me for our upcoming events, share our events with your broader circle in the spirit of a larger social mission and that you will consider donating to support 5959 Chicago’s programming. Because, as a friend pointed out to me years ago: nobody saves the world in one fell swoop. We each do what we can alongside others doing what they can, and little by little, it all adds up.

Our next event is a discussion on May 27th with best-selling author Michele Wucker about her new book, You Are What You Risk: The New Art and Science of Navigating an Uncertain World. If you read her last book, international best-seller Gray Rhino: How to Recognize and Act on the Obvious Dangers We Ignore (the book that challenged the entire idea of a “black swan” event), you already know it promises to be a wonderful and thought-provoking discussion. One that I’m sure will leave each of us with new ideas to carry out into the world.

In solidarity,

Amy Guth


Amy Guth

Senior Event Planner 5959 Chicago


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