May 14, 2021

Hazak, hazak v’nithazek. (“Be strong, be strong and we will be strengthened!”)

These are the words traditionally shared at the conclusion of reading one of the books of the Torah before we begin reading a new book. This week’s Torah portion, Bamidbar, is the first portion in the Book of Numbers, which draws our attention to the Sinai Desert and to the census that takes place in preparation for the Hebrews’ entry to the land of Canaan, to what we today call the land of Israel.

This week Israel has once again returned to the front pages of the world’s newspapers. Unfortunately, it is not because of its beauty, innovation, or historic ability to bring diverse cultures, faiths, and demographics together. Rather, the focus is on the struggles, pain, suffering, and hate that highlight our human imperfections.

Candidly, I have struggled this week to no end. Over the last year, I have heard stories from our community leaders, stakeholders, and agency and synagogue professionals, who have all shared that Israel is a “lightning rod” topic that I should avoid. They have explained that it is Federation’s responsibility to unite and convene the community, and not engage in topics that might tear us apart, as the subject of Israel did not so many years ago.

Israel is not an easy topic to discuss. It is often polarizing, and people are drawn to seeing Israel as an extension of the government in office and not of the citizens, the history, and/or the culture that it exudes. However, Israel is my second home…literally! It is where my parents live, my sister lives, and where all the generations of my family have lived since approximately 1798.

Israel was the topic of the conversation I had with my mother on Wednesday (our weekend calls have become daily this week). She said to me, “I have survived two types of cancer and a global pandemic. I just celebrated my 80th birthday. I am now being moved from my apartment for the next 3 years. Tel Aviv is growing so rapidly that the building I live in is being knocked down and rebuilt to provide additional apartments and extra parking. I do not have the ability to get up in the middle of the night to go down to the bomb shelter. Tonight, I will take a sleeping pill when I go to sleep, and if I don’t get up in the morning just know that I love you all.” This is my Israel.

But my Israel is not much different than most others. Each of us has a relative, friend, or friend of a friend, who is in pain right now. The tragedy of what is going on is beyond compare. Let us put aside the politics, anger, and blame, and come together to support, heal, and provide what is needed.

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) has facilitated a daily briefing. I encourage everyone to stay informed. Please don’t get your news from one source. We know that there are always two sides to every story, and the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

If you are able to be generous at this time, we ask that you make a contribution to our Israel in Crisis Campaign. Your donation helps Jewish Federations of North America and its partners provide on-ground support and life-saving humanitarian aid.  There is not much we can do from a distance, but what we can do is important and can make a difference.

As I conclude this week’s words of Torah, I share the prophetic responsibility of the words in Psalm 122:

(6) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem;
may those who love you enjoy tranquility.

(7) May there be peace in your walls,
harmony in your palaces.

(8) For my brethren and my companions’ sakes,
I will now share the words, “Peace be within thee.”

 

This week we are reminded that our Jewish Federation is…

HERE for you and our brothers and sisters in Israel.

HERE for our community and for our homeland Israel.

HERE for our Future and the future of the State of Israel.

 

Shabbat shalom,

 

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