By Curt Collier
It’s a new season filled with new opportunities. I can’t wait to get started. We kick off our year with a unique event, Rise Up for Ethics!, on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 11 am. Our season kickoff events are usually a time for celebration. I want it to be that, especially ourTapas Party on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 10. However, the past year has been frustrating, to say the least, with circumstances that require an ethical people’s attention: assaults on women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, rising book bans and censorship, further collapse of the wall separating church and state, mass shootings and a rise in violence, Russian aggression and war in Ukraine, the onslaughts on voter rights–especially the rights of Blacks–the suppression of Black history and further “whitewashing” of the dominant culture’s culpability, the attempted insurgency on Capitol Hill and violent push to reverse a fair election, rise of hate groups, and on and on …. just since January! We’ve been here before; we’ve seen these men before.
It is not helpful to simply get depressed and angry, but it is a time to unite and push back. Twenty-one community organizations answered the call to come to the Ethical Society on Sept. 11 and to raise awareness, to unite into community, and to embolden our ethical spirits. Make sure you mark your calendar for this important event. Let’s start the year off with a positive note, despite evidence to the contrary. Let’s get organized.
Majority believes goodness will prevail
I’ve never been one to sit back and do nothing. I’ve faced more than my fair share of violence directed at me over the years as a gay man and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I refuse to shrink myself to satisfy the fears of another. Rather, I calmly say “no,” and if I’ve had to, I’ve shouted it. But despite everything I read in the news and my own experiences, I also know that the majority of citizens the world over believes as I do: Goodness will prevail. The march of civil rights moves forward, even with stumbles, missteps, and pushback. I also believe that nearly everyone has the capacity to change from antagonist to supporter. Standing up for your rights, standing firm on ethical principles, has an odd effect, even on supposed detractors. It lets them know that there are limits, there are boundaries, and we will not quietly acquiesce. It shows them our resolve.
I am positive about this year for so many reasons. I’ve seen renewed vigor in our community and an interest from outsiders. I’ve received calls for collaborations and connections. The pandemic is lifting, and we need to come back together again. I’m hopeful because we held our first summer youth employment program, and I am amazed, as I always am, at what our youth can accomplish. Our first group of four youth worked five weeks on some amazing projects and the reviews are they loved it. Some even want to return next year. Youth are our future, and if they’re optimistic and well-trained, the future will look brighter, indeed.
Renewed vigor in our Society
Tried and true programs are returning. Perry Stein is bringing back an Ethical Brew concert as a test. Community partners, assisted by Social Action Chair Anne Wallman, are bringing back the Resistance Café. Silvia Acosta and Diane Koszarski are getting us to breathe again. Samantha Stankiewicz and Mary Lavelle pulled together an amazingly busy summer schedule for our families and I look forward with them to furthering the Family & Friends Circle. Azar Gordon hosted some fabulous pool parties for our youth and members and will start us off with a huge collection of musicians on Sept. 11. Eliot Lerman has the Men’s Club up and eating together, Mary Matsui has organized a team to bring back the Skills Auction, Susan Lesh is working to organize festivals, Theresa Forsman pulls together a fabulous monthly newsletter, Rob Eigenbrod wowed us with a benefit concert, Dwight Panozzo has moved us further toward deeper introspection, Ed Gross and Ron Schwartz are welcoming new members, Javier Valencia nos mantiene hablando, Elaine Fondiller and her team are pulling together an amazing line-up of speakers (including a huge speakers series in February), Terri Karp and Lucy Lettis are getting our name out there despite being thousands of miles away, and a huge cadre of volunteers are supporting all of this just… since… June. Absolutely amazing. If this isn’t a sign of rebirth and renewal, you’re not paying attention.
Let us not shrink, let our fears not overwhelm us, let us not dim the lights, stop our dancing, and hush our children. It’s time to come back to the Ethical Society. There is a place for you here, and we need all of your help. Coming together in community is the greatest act of defiance and the greatest source of hope. We need you here. Let the voices rise up. Let the ethical people rise up again, and let’s get this year started.
Curt Collier is leader of the Ethical Culture Society of New Jersey.