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JCF Blog

Year of the Philanthropic Journey Part 4 of 12: Places we love

Posted by: Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford on 12/20/2018
The Place: Sedona, Arizona – a magical and spiritual place that emits an energy of inner calm. As I hike in the red rocks and climb up, I am at a loss for words. The beauty and exquisite span of the red rocks makes my heart skip beats. I pray that everyone in the world has an opportunity to experience this feeling.  

The Place: Sitting at the most Western tip of Jamaica, Negril is perhaps one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed. The sky is awash with color as the bright orange ball gently kisses the Caribbean Sea good night.  

The Place: The Western Wall, the most significant site in the world for Jews, is the last remnant of our temple. It’s strength and godliness attracts Jews from around the world to pray. People write notes to G-d and place them between the ancient stones of the Wall. As I stand and touch this beautiful and treasured wall and watch others brought to tears by their prayers and connections to our rich history, I am overwhelmed by the pride I feel to be Jewish. I’m overwhelmed by my connection to every Jewish person in the world, my hope that all who touch the Wall and pray have their prayers answered, and that their sufferings diminish. When I’m at the Wall I am never more full of hope for a world filled with peace and love.

We all get caught up in our own bubbles and feel like our problems and issues are overwhelming. We forget about perspective.

These places remind me at my core how small and insignificant I am in this world. Perhaps this is why they bring me such inner peace. They have been here for thousands of years before me and will be here thousands of years after I’m gone. The more I become connected to their beauty and power, the more my own problems and worries become less important and melt away and I am filled with both awe and gratitude. Any place, person, feeling, or thought that stops us in our tracks and takes our breath away offers us the opportunity to just take a break from our everyday life and worries. The mask we present to the world is irrelevant for a time and put into its proper place.

There was a recent study examining the psychology of awe. Feeling wonder and amazement at something bigger than ourselves makes us feel more connected to other people and improves our measures of compassion and ethical decision making.

We can create that very feeling of connection and compassion whenever and wherever we choose.

When my children were little and stressed by life, we talked about them going to their “happy” places – a place they would go to in their minds and hearts, with eyes closed and vivid details filled in, that would help them feel peaceful. I asked them to describe their happy places and explain colors, sounds, smells, and activities. I visibly watched their bodies relax, their breaths deepen, and their voices slow down. It didn’t make their problems go away but it did take them away for a little while so that when they returned they were better equipped to deal with their lives.

As we welcome in 2019, I wish for a peaceful year, a year when love wins over hate, and for you to find a place that you love, that brings you inner peace, in the world and in your heart.


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Ed Kane
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The Sedona hike through red clay mountains hits a major point at The Cathedral of the Mountains. It is Catholic Church placed right in center of a magnificent view. If others get there. Do not miss this place. My son’s wife owns 2 homes there along with Peter Gassner (formerly of West Hartford). One can also arrange a side trip to the not too far south rim of Grand Canyon and really see what Nature has to offer!
Steve Kleinman
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Risa, your blog post is very meaningful in these times of extreme worldwide and national stress. I truly hope the last sentence of your blog post is fulfilled for all human beings.
Victor Bernstein
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The best view of the Cathedral of the Mountain is from the synagogues big picture windows. Now the views from this Shul are stunning and are not to be missed.
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