Shabbat Greetings from Meredith Dragon 6.4.21

Israel is on my mind. Truthfully, Israel is often on my mind. Half of my family lives there. My nieces and nephews are serving in the Israel Defense Forces. So many people who I love dearly live there. It is hard not to be thinking about Israel, particularly when the country has been under fire, on every front.
 
Israel is a beautifully diverse country in every way and mirrors the diversity and complexity of our Jewish world. A national pastime in Israel is debate, pretty much about anything. Israelis have the knack to be able to disagree and then hug it out at the end of the discussion. They recognize that even in differences—really significant differences—they share a love of the country. 
 
Like all countries, Israel is not perfect. Just like in the United States, individuals may agree or disagree about policies and positions. But because both our countries are democracies, there is space for debate and disagreement. However, I believe strongly that there is a difference between disagreement and divisiveness. Sadly, the topic of Israel has become divisive in Jewish communities across the U.S.  
 
Israel should be a rallying and unifying force, our North Star. Yet, from all sides, it is pulling us apart. This is particularly troublesome right now because our Jewish community needs to be united. There are so many outside forces trying to hurt and discredit us. They are using anti-Zionism and old antisemitic tropes in new ways to build hatred. Now is the time that we must stick together, talk with one another, support each other, and help each other, even when we disagree, especially when we disagree. And we know we always disagree.  
 
We learned in our Every Voice Counts survey that our community wants real and honest dialogue. We also know that it is critical that we create productive opportunities to learn about and discuss our homeland. Again, we may not always agree, but we must engage with one another productively and constructively. 
 
Our Federation clearly stands as an organization that supports and promotes Israel and Zionism. I am proud of how the Jewish Federation celebrates Israel, provides steadfast support, and offers a multitude of opportunities to connect in truly meaningful and important ways. It’s a primary reason I have dedicated my career to the Jewish Federation. Here are just a few of the things we are involved in locally:
 
• People-to-People Connection. Through Partnership2gether – programs like Journey for Identity, Ramim and so many more, we have developed a vibrant and impactful connection to people in Israel, particularly in Modi'in. We bring ShinShinim—young Jewish emissaries—to teach about Israel in local public schools, day schools, religious schools, and at community events. We host teacher exchanges, bringing elementary, middle, and high school teachers and administrators from Brighton and Pittsford to Israel, and vice versa.
 
• Funding. For more than 80 years, we have provided many millions of dollars in funding for Israel to support efforts like Russian resettlement, Ethiopian rescue, human services through the Jewish Agency and JDC, and education through World ORT. Our dollars have helped build the state of Israel.
 
• Advocacy Efforts. We are constantly working with legislators, school superintendents, and colleges to educate about Israel. We host missions to Israel to enhance understanding and connections. We have partnered to help create business partnerships between Rochester and Israel. We let our views be known in the media through op-ed pieces. We produce educational programs for our community, including current events and election updates.
 
• Emergency Response to Crisis. This includes communication in all forms of media about the situation, including updated information on our website. Additionally, we raise emergency funds to meet significant human service needs. Operations Moses and Solomon are two examples of how we rescue Jews in crisis and bring them to safety in Israel.
 
I’d like to share one last thought, an idea recently shared with me by a friend who attended a values and diversity conference. I learned the acronym VUCA, a term that originated in the military to talk about challenging times. It is now being used in business and universities to navigate our post-pandemic world. 
 
VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Our world—and particularly our Jewish community—is living through a VUCA moment, again. The acronym, however, has been reframed. VUCA now stands for vision, unity, caring, and authenticity. 
I say we adopt VUCA and celebrate Israel with vision, unity, caring, and authenticity. That’s something I think all of us can embrace because we are so much stronger together.
 
Shabbat Shalom-
 
Meredith Dragon, CEO

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