A few days ago I read an op/ed by Abe Foxman, Director Emeritus of the Anti Defamation League. In it, he wrote that what keeps him up at night, after decades of fighting antisemitism and hate, is the vulnerability of synagogues and communal spaces in our communities.
As I considered the rest of his piece, I thought about what kept me up at night. Of course, as a parent, a brother and a husband, the health and happiness of my kids and my family come to mind first. Having gone through major health challenges myself, with my sibling, and my kids, I know that feeling of being unmoored, adrift and out of sight of land, and slowly sinking. As a Jew in the diaspora, with family, friends, and my People in Israel, I know that feeling of needing to help when they are under fire, that shock of knowing the place where an attack happened or a rocket fell. I know the feeling too, of being responsible to provide for those who depend on me, and the stress of uncertainty, inflation, or instability in doing so.
What really keeps me up at night, though, is akin to Rabbi Foxman’s great concern. I can learn from and understand the past. I can work together with community members and leaders to tackle the challenges of today. But what truly keeps me from rest is the knowledge that our future is unknown. Yes, it may contain great triumphs, but it also inevitably contains great danger.
I think that this uncertainty is a constant around which our yearly encounter with judgment and responsibility revolves. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur draw from all sides. What has happened already, what we can do now to make change, and what our year to come could look like if we do so successfully.
The famous High Holiday prayer of Rabbi Amnon of Mainz, Unetaneh Tokef, prescribes repentance, prayer, and charitable giving as ways to overcome uncertainty and tragedy. There are many interpretations of a spiritual nature, but as you probably already know from reading these messages each week, I like to go directly to the practical implications of an idea. So, if you think about it, they all turn toward the future. Repentance includes an undertaking to do things differently. Prayer inevitably asks for something going forward. And giving charitably makes an immediate and ongoing difference in the lives of those helped.
What we do at Federation is no different, and indeed it entirely encompasses the final element of Rabbi Amnon’s formula. So as we head into the New Year, this is how I hope you all will look at the uncertainty we all face, and the opportunity contained within it.
We have undertaken to do things differently at Federation - on antisemitism and security, on helping the vulnerable, and much more. You can help us do so, with a new or increased gift to our annual campaign.
We are asking for your partnership going forward. Not only for your generous charitable support, but also for your involvement, your feedback, and your leadership. You can help us with your time and efforts, not only with your dollars. Give us a call to find out how.
We are finding new ways to make your charitable giving more impactful. New initiatives, emergency giving, and our new Campaign Plus approach - which gives new donors or increased gifts an opportunity to direct some of their annual campaign donations to a particular interest - are only some of the ways in which the Federation makes it easy to have a real impact in the lives of our sisters and brothers.
Let’s use this formula, and this special time of year to take away some of that uncertainty, and to ensure that not only ourselves and our families, but also those we help, can sleep soundly at night as well.
On behalf of the Board, staff, volunteers, partners, beneficiaries and supporters of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County, I want to wish you a Shana Tova Umetuka, a Good and Sweet New Year, with happiness, health, stability and peace for all of us.