Posts from the last few weeks have been heavy, haven’t they? Such devastation. Such sadness. We have all felt the weight of recent events and I had every intention of posting something more uplifting this week.
I imagined writing about some of the conversations I have been having with members of our community about what the Federation means to them. People have been beyond generous with their time as I had my 90th one-on-one meeting this week, which has included meetings with donors, colleagues, clergy and other members of the community. My ‘listening tour’ has revealed so much to me about this amazing community and I look forward to sharing more about what I am hearing and learning.
I imagined I would share about the uplifting and inspiring interaction I had this week with 20 young Jewish Federation professionals from around the country who are engaging young Jewish adults in communities throughout North America. If anyone is concerned about the future of the Jewish people, rest assured that these are some of the most impressive, creative and inspired young professionals I have met during my 20-year career. Federations around the country, including ours, recognize it is essential that we invest in our future by engaging young Jews in our communities. Efforts of this cohort, along with our own San Diego Next Gen team, will undoubtedly inspire generations of involvement here in San Diego and around the country!
I imagined sharing with you about a program that is positioned to transform our community for years to come. An exciting initiative for women in our community launched just one week ago. The Pauline Foster Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Institute was designed to inspire, train, and develop two dozen women in our community to serve as leaders in the future. The program intends to train leaders, not just for Federation, but leaders who can enrich the entire San Diego Jewish community. With the leadership of our Women’s Philanthropy Chair, Silvana Christy, and the Leadership Cohort Chair, Judi Gottschalk, the program kicked off with a retreat last weekend where nearly two dozen women came together to begin this transformative 15-month experience. Read more about it in today's ENews.
Instead, I feel compelled to reflect on what feels like an unending barrage of violence, instability, and sadness that grips Jewish communities throughout California and around the world. Many of us are thinking today of our friends and family in Los Angeles and in Northern California who are impacted by recent and devastating wild fires.
And, of course, many of us watched gut wrenching news reports and read endless articles describing terrifying circumstances on the ground that had millions of Israelis living in fear. Just as with Pittsburgh, where we felt a deep connection to our extended family 3,000 miles away, we also felt the pain and fear associated with this latest escalation of violence impacting our extended family in Israel.
It hits especially close to home as our friends in Sha’ar HaNegev spent hours – and nights – in shelters, wondering if this is the beginning of yet another war against Israel.
If I can offer a glimmer of hope and inspiration, I found it for myself in a message from Federation Board member, Larry Acheatel. He shared with me an example of the incredible leadership being demonstrated by young people in Sha’ar Hanegev in the face of unimaginable adversity. Here’s what he said:
This historic march was initiated last week, planned, organized and executed by the senior class of Sha’ar HaNegev High School. Sha’ar HaNegev Principal, and our close friend, Aharale Rothstein, was told to stop it, but obviously, he couldn’t and he ended up marching with them on the last day reaching Jerusalem. The students were assisted all along the way with food, shelter, and other support. They literally left without anything except a small backpack and were offered everything by communities along the 90km hike. The event dominated Israeli news stations/papers for the entire five days. (Read more about it in today's Enews.)
I imagined being able to focus today on messages that transcend a perpetual state of unease, fear, and sadness. I want more than anything to change the conversation to one that focuses on opportunities I see to build and sustain a vibrant Jewish community here in San Diego. I’m certain I will have that chance soon enough.