Honorable Mensch-ion

Determination and Comeback: High Holy Days 5781

Determination. Comeback. Celebration of the Human Spirit. Those words can describe our Jewish community in this transformative moment. We have entered the month of Elul, just four weeks before Rosh Hashanah. Every day until the New Year, we will sound the shofar, waking us up to renew our lives, to build the community that we do not want to lose. If we are going to survive and thrive we must be determined, each of us counting more now than we ever have before.
These words also describe Ariana Berlin. A budding Olympic gymnast in her youth, Ariana was severely injured as a teen in a horrific car accident. Ariana transitioned from gymnastics to dance, but never lost her love of the gym. Her determination to recover led her to UCLA, where she walked-on, but then earned a scholarship, became a four time All American, and one of the greatest UCLA gymnasts of all time. Her story inspired the Netflix film, “Full Out.”
While UCLA gymnastics and the High Holy Days are not often spoken about in the same sentence, the connection at this moment is strong. After Ariana’s successful athletic career, she transitioned to production, landing a career with FOX Sports. And today, Ariana finds herself working with Sinai Temple in producing the High Holy Days 5781.
Ariana learned the history of Sinai Temple; its melodies, stories, leaders, and traditions. And we began to learn Ariana’s story too.
Ariana Berlin is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, a proud Jew, who embraced history and tradition. Ariana’s story is the story of the Jewish people. Her bio speaks for itself; working with the likes of Lebron James and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar. But now, her bio has an added line, “High Holy Day Live Production.”
A Rabbi’s role is to transform the words of the machzor into feelings of the heart in the modern day Jew. 5781 will always be remembered as different. For this year, we will transmit those words, lessons, and ancient wisdom from a book to a screen in our homes. Ariana has stepped up to the task. Never before have the High Holy Days looked like they will this year. Yet, with the magic of technology and the power of our communal story, we will all be inspired, uplifted, and ready for more.
The poet Stephen Vincent Benet once wrote, “You drop a stone in a pond, and the circles spread. Who can ever say on what far shore of the pond the last circle will break?”
Could Ariana’s grandparents imagine during those dark days of the Holocaust, that their granddaughter in Southern California, would one day produce the High Holy Days on TV for the 21st century?
It is proof that the circle continues to spread, that the call of the shofar must be heard, now more than ever.
Determination. Comeback. Celebration of the Human Spirit. That’s our story–may we all be a part of it.
Join me this coming Tuesday, as Ariana shares her personal story. Get a sneak peak into how Sinai Temple’s High Holy Days 5781 will be celebrated. Be inspired. Be determined. Enter this season with hope. Register HERE via Zoom. 

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