Forgiveness Unleashes the Power to Heal
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Forgiveness Unleashes the Power to Heal

Terri Bonoff is the CEO of Jewish Family & Careers Services.

Terri Bonoff
Terri Bonoff

What does forgiveness bring to mind? In one of the most important tests of life I have been given, I was asked to “forgive and accept.” My husband wanted a divorce when our sons were 18 months old, and 5 years old. He loved me, and yet he couldn’t thrive inside our marriage. I believed marriage to be a pact with G-d, and I was deeply troubled. Yet, I clearly understood our marriage was over.

We both wrestled with this conflict. We decided to choose each other for life as co-parents and loving friends and let the marriage dissolve. I chose forgiveness and acceptance. That acceptance opened the door to new love and family. After being remarried for 26 years, I can say that all four of our children are deeply loved by all of their parents.

For many in similar situations, it is not that easy. As CEO of JF&CS, I am keenly aware of the importance of creating a culture of tikkun olam, based on love, forgiveness and acceptance. This culture must embody all who are part of JF&CS and most importantly, our clients and community in need. Those in need are often difficult to help; their lives upended and their emotions raw. We have a choice; meet them where they are and encircle them with love and hope or remain arms-length and assess with a clinical eye. What does forgiveness have to do with this conundrum? We disappoint. It cannot be helped. We have high standards and expectations for those we give our time, our love and our commitment to. We do not live up to each other’s standards from time to time. We judge. We get hurt. We are misunderstood. We retreat. This act of separation, of placing distance between ourselves and those we love, work with, are called upon to serve, has a cost. What is it?

As I reflect on that question, I know the answer: it costs me the true experience of myself. I am certain that, when living in G-d’s image, I forgive. Therefore, when holding grudges, judging, not forgiving, I am not living to my true potential. My impact is thwarted.

As I grapple with the enormity of the responsibility and the honor to lead this extraordinary organization, I know I must lead by example. I must begin by embracing my team, my new community, and most importantly those in need, with love, the power of healing and acceptance. Forgiveness unleashes our power to heal. When we strive to live in G-d’s image and work in partnership with each other, we can truly transform lives and heal the world. It is urgent that we commit to unleashing the power of our potential, and pledge to live with forgiveness in our hearts and in our deeds. We will make mistakes. We will fail. Let’s forgive ourselves for that and begin anew.

L’Shana Tova

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