This week we celebrate the holiday of Purim. It is a joyous, and often raucous holiday. Click here for more info about Purim. While there is great festivity associated with Purim, there is also a serious side to the holiday too.
There are four mitzvot of the holiday that we are supposed to observe. They are reading the megillah, eating and drinking a special meal, giving gifts to friends and neighbors (mishloach manot) and giving support to those in need.
When I think about supporting those in need, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for all that we have and all that we have been able to do. There is so much generosity in our community and I am eternally grateful to everyone who supports us, in every way, every day. A few examples come to mind immediately when I think about how we put generosity into action. The partnership between our agencies and synagogues has never been stronger in Rochester. We are engaged in a variety of work and projects together that set the stage for a vibrant future. We have never experienced such cooperation and a “we are in it together” spirit. Major initiatives like Life and Legacy, community planning with CLAL, ROCStrong – protecting Jewish Rochester, and our COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts are just a few big examples of how we work together successfully.
The seeds were planted long ago, but the pandemic has illuminated why it is so important for us to work together for the greater good of our community. It is in the examples of the little things though that really highlight the spirit of cooperation. The phone calls asking for help and support. The trust to admit that we can’t do it alone. The idea generation of what we can achieve together. Showing up and being a community, together. We are living with the understanding that we are only as strong as our weakest link and we share in our successes and failures. This is the mark of a change in nature and spirit. It inspires me to keep pushing forward, together.
As I look out my window, I am not surprised to see it looks like February in Rochester. It is cold, grey and snow covered. Last week though in Texas, February did not look like February there. Bitter cold and snow caused tremendous damage to communities across the state with devastation and recovery efforts more significant than recent hurricanes, like Harvey. Our collective Federation system sprang into action to help all of the communities in Texas impacted, but two cities, who are part of our city-size cohort, Dallas and Houston, drew special attention. The group of 17 cities immediately spearheaded an effort to provide funding and support last week. In my capacity as chair of our city-size group we proudly led the way in this initiative.
Through our collective we were able to raise and release $155,000 from the Federations in the cohort and JFNA to cover immediate needs. This barely scratches the surface of what the communities need, but it provided and immediate infusion of help and support. This is what we do and I know that if we were in crisis, our Federation system would step up and help us in Rochester too. This initial distribution ensured that people, particularly the most vulnerable, had a safe place, heat, and kosher meals. More than 1,000 kosher meals, every day last week, including Shabbat, were distributed. While the temperatures are rising back to normal this week, the wake of devastation is severe. Coupled with the pandemic, people are exhausted. My colleagues in Texas could not be more grateful for the support monetarily and emotionally. If you are interested in reading more about the Texas response or supporting the collective fundraising effort, perhaps in honor of Purim, click here
Whether we are focusing on our work in Rochester, our collective system in Israel and around the globe, or the domestic issues we face, I am proud and grateful to be a part of a caring and generous community, at Purim and all year long.
Let us go eat, drink, and be merry for Purim knowing that simultaneously we are making our world a better place for our children and grandchildren.