Rabbi Harold Kushner z”l said, “When you are kind to others, it not only changes you, it changes the world.”
As Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, approaches, we may find ourselves in a time of prayer, self-reflection and repentance. It is an opportunity to review our actions during the past year and look for ways to improve ourselves, our community and our world in the year to come. This time of year gives me pause to reflect on goals and aspirations, hopes and possibilities — on what can be if we work together.
What stands out for me is the ongoing commitment of volunteers who are ensuring the vibrancy of our Jewish community. The anticipation of a new year brings with it the hopes and possibilities of wonderful things to come. I find it reenergizing to begin anew! We at the Jewish Federation have spent a good part of the summer planning for our new program year, scheduling committee meetings, organizing the launch of new projects and meeting with affinity group and event chairs, and we are excited about the possibilities that our 2023-2024 year presents. The theme for our 2024 Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs is Here for Good. We especially can’t wait to connect and engage with you to realize the greater potential that exists within our community.
It is you, our volunteers, that make it all happen!
In an article in the Journal of Jewish Communal Service, Susan Kohn and Diane Wohl wrote, “Volunteerism is a building block of Jewish social capital. It has multiple positive outcomes and provides a strong return on investment of resources:
• Volunteering empowers the volunteer and develops trust and reciprocity between individuals.
• Volunteering empowers institutions to build and sustain community.
• Volunteering in a Jewish context strengthens Jewish identity and commitment to the Jewish community.
• Volunteers involved in faith-based activities feel more connected and give significantly more time and money.”
Volunteerism is a core Jewish value rooted in gmilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness). It is a traditional way for us to be engaged in our communities and, by extension, to play an active role in the world. In Jewish life, the concepts of community service, social justice and tikkun olam (repairing the world) are expressions of the value of volunteering. The world may not be perfect, but we have the opportunity, and really the obligation, to help make it better. Volunteers do noble work and the Jewish Federation is proud to partner with our many volunteers to strengthen our community. It enables us all to take an active role in nourishing and enriching Lehigh Valley Jewish life.
There are many activities happening right now, both here at Federation and in the broader Jewish community, that are strengthened by our volunteers. At Federation, our upcoming major donor reception, our work on the Older Adult Task Force, and events for Women’s Philanthropy, Young Leadership and the Maimonides Society will be made successful by the many volunteers who give their time, energy, financial support and ideas. Additionally, our synagogues and agencies are kicking off the new year with programs that engage community members and enhance our Jewish community’s vibrancy.
We count on you to step in to help create the inclusive, caring and committed environment that we would all like to see for ourselves, our neighbors and our entire Jewish family. There is room for everyone to make an impact. While we have many opportunities ahead of us, you are a valuable and significant part of leading us into the future. You make a difference in determining what our Jewish community will look like today, in five years, in 10 years and further into the future. If you are interested in volunteering, there are many opportunities for you to get involved with the work of Federation — please get in touch! The Jewish Federation really depends on people being active not only in their own lives, but also in the life of our community.
Wishes for a happy, sweet and blessed year resonate with the spirit of hope and renewal that the High Holidays season brings. Your dedication to creating a positive and meaningful environment for our community is truly remarkable. May your efforts inspire others to engage, contribute and make a lasting impact on our community and the world.
Shana tovah metukah u’mevurechet!