By Jim Norman
We live in frightening and perilous times, of that there can be no doubt. Whenever we open the morning paper (those of us who still read newspapers) or check our favorite sources on television or the internet, the evidence is all around us.
Whether the news is about the latest Russian atrocity in Ukraine, or about American conservatives expressing their admiration for a Hungarian right-wing dictator, or a United States Supreme Court packed with Trump appointees who lied about their acceptance of Roe v. Wade to gain their seats and now seem to be showing their true colors in overturning the law of the land, the evidence is there.
Yet, for us in the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County, the evidence is equally clear that there is much to feel extraordinarily hopeful and optimistic about.
On an auspicious Sunday in the middle of May, we formally installed our new leader, Curt Collier, and we heard him set forth his vision of a bright, activist future in which we express ourselves as leaders in the struggle for a just society in a balanced world, with an environment that supports us as we support it.
Standing ovation marked transition
At the same time, as part of the celebration of Curt “graduating” from interim leader to our real, full-time clergyman, we could not help but note the warm welcome he was given by our retired leader of nearly a half-century, Dr. Joe Chuman.
The significance of the passing of the torch from Joe to Curt did not go unnoticed by many members and visitors who packed the meetinghouse and rose in a standing ovation to mark the transition.
And in applauding the occasion and the succession of our new leader, we must recognize that, most of all, we are applauding ourselves.
We will continue to fight
We know that no matter how dark the world around us appears to be, we hold the keys to a bright new future. We know that we can, we must, and we will continue to fight for a more just society for all in America, and that we can, must, and will maintain our solidarity for a clean environment that will allow us all to live in harmony with each other and with the world around us.
The very next week after his investiture as our new leader, Curt presided over what could well have been a truly sad occasion, the acknowledgment of the terrible loss of a beloved member, Janet Glass. But even as we mourned the loss of Janet, we celebrated her life — and took from it guidance for our own lives.
Let us commit ourselves to optimistic visions
It is no small wonder or mere coincidence that as her life was nearing an end, Janet asked to meet simultaneously with Curt and with Paula Rogovin, a Teaneck resident and friend of Ethical Culture who is known to us all as a determined and undaunted activist in pressing the urgent need for an environment unsullied by unclean fossil energy sources and unthreatened by dangerous oil trains rolling through our neighborhoods.
Even as we realistically remain aware of forces of darkness around us, let us commit ourselves, in everything we do, to the bright prospects represented by the optimistic visions of Janet Glass and Curt Collier.
We must do no less; our lives and the futures of our children and grandchildren depend on us.
Jim Norman is president of the Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County.