Earlier this week I returned from the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly (GA) in Los Angeles, CA. I had the good fortune of attending with a wonderful delegation from Rochester. Together we explored many of the complex issues confronting Jewish communities today.
More than 3,000 people from all over the globe attended this annual conference. We represented different communities and constituencies, but we shared a passion: a deep love of the Jewish people and the desire to build a strong Jewish future together.
The GA serves as an important reminder of the incredible power we have to make our world a better place through our collective of 150 Federations. In times of crisis, our Federations mobilize quickly, because we are “boots on the ground” every day and can respond immediately.
One example is the Federation system’s response to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston, Texas. Nearly 75% of the city’s Jewish population lives in areas that experienced extensive flooding. I had the opportunity to meet with many members of the Houston Jewish community, whose accounts were harrowing. Many described this as the first time they and their families became beneficiaries of our collective system, a role reversal. The Jewish community of Houston is deeply appreciative of the support from Federations, including generous donors from our own Rochester community.
Collectively, Federations raised nearly $18.5 million dollars for hurricane relief and recovery efforts, in addition to money raised for all of the other natural disasters that occurred this fall. It is estimated that another $12 million dollars is necessary to complete the clean-up and restoration of the Houston Jewish community. With great expediency and effective coordination and action, the Houston Federation and Jewish Federations of North America are managing to help every family that has been affected and manage their case, sustaining Jewish life with some level of normalcy and restoring and rebuilding the community. This is a formidable task, but one that our collective is able to achieve because of our operations day to day, month to month and year to year.
While at the GA we also took the opportunity to meet with all of our overseas partners. Each organization shared its gratitude for the support that our Federation offers. I was overwhelmed by the deep impact our dollars have on many thousands of lives every day, from the Holocaust survivors and vulnerable seniors we are supporting in Russia, to the children who are studying in a Jewish school in Bulgaria, the victims of terror who are being assisted in Israel and so many others.
Our collective responsibility calls us to action and it is because of our Federation collective that we are able to accomplish all that we do on any given day. There is no doubt that if we were not a part of our collective, our Jewish world would look very different in Rochester and around the globe. Recently we created a short video to highlight the Federation’s impact on any given day. You can watch it here.
There are many reasons why I feel grateful to be a part of a system that cares deeply about the welfare of our people but there is one very personal one that I would like to share.
Recently a tragedy befell my family. I was overwhelmed and uplifted by the support of our Rochester community and people all over the United States and Israel who reached out to me. In one of my family’s greatest times of need I felt for the first time, first hand, just how we rally in support.
I am accustomed to supporting others. It was humbling being a beneficiary. But in that new role, I was made to feel comfortable being helped, which is not easy for me. I am tremendously and forever grateful to all of the people who supported me and my family at this difficult time.
During this season of thanks, I want you all to know how lucky I feel to live in a community that truly cares about every individual. Rochester is a place full of care and compassion. I knew that before, but now I too have been a recipient of help in ways that I could not imagine.
My mourning is tempered with gratitude for the kindness and compassion that was bestowed upon me and my family.
Please know that our community is always here for you too. Every single day.
From my family to yours, I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.
Shabbat Shalom -