July 17, 2020
We continue to live through a period of history like none in recent memory and it is important that we not get lost in the labor of dealing with the here and now as we prepare for tomorrow. Our struggles, pains, and challenges can certainly be blamed on the pandemic, but it has always been our Jewish tradition to never accept current hardships as the way things have to be.
From our origin story of Adam & Eve, through Noah and the great flood, when Joseph was buried in a pit of despair or forgotten in Pharaoh’s dungeon, to our people’s slavery in Egypt, and even during the Holocaust, the Jewish community has never accepted that we would live in such hardship forever. Our people’s history is built on hope. So much so, that Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, literally means “the hope”!
So, where are we today, and what is our hope for tomorrow? This is the question that the Jewish Federation is asking of our San Antonio community. In times like these, when planning for next week seems almost impossible, how are we supposed to plan for next year, or even the year after that? I would ask, if a ship is caught in a storm and the captain has lost view of the horizon, should the crew give up on their course and let the ocean dictate their destination?
As a Jewish community we have always taken great pride in our responsibility for tikkun olam (repairing the world), we have founded agencies on gemilut chasidim (acts of love and kindness), and we have believed in our responsibility to be an or la’goyim (a light unto the nations). It is these exact values and sense of responsibility that the Jewish Federation is counting on right now! Today, more than ever, the Federation needs your help, your support, and your promise to be part of our community’s plan for the future.
What does it mean to make that promise?
After 30 years in education, I have learned a handful of irrefutable truths and one of them is that the pinkie promise is as powerful an agreement between two children as a contract with pages of legalese is between billion-dollar corporations!
In this week’s Torah portion, Matot, we read of a very specific type of promise, the neder. Unlike the more common vow or oath, the neder is a very unique type of self-made pledge or commitment that binds a person as if it were law. The neder possesses such obligation that in modern Hebrew it is common to hear someone use the phrase “bli neder” (without neder) to literally negate the statement about to be, or just uttered.
The Federation is asking you to promise that you will do your part in helping to ensure the sustainability of our Jewish community in San Antonio for future generations. As part of our community outreach, Federation will be scheduling virtual town hall meetings open to all community members. Please join the conversation on what we want our Jewish community to look like 10, 20, and even 100 years from now.
Our plan is that in 2 years, when Federation celebrates its 100th anniversary leading the Jewish community of San Antonio, we will unveil a plan developed from these personal conversations, as well as our discussions with our beneficiary agencies and congregations. We look forward to this journey of discovery and innovation with you.
Stay safe and Shabbat shalom.