I get a lot of letters and emails. I mean a lot. Some are typical business correspondence. Some are not happy with something the Federation or another Jewish organization has done or not done. Some are even complimentary. There really are no boundaries. Literally, there are no boundaries.
Some letters make me think. And, some make me dream. And some make me very proud, and a bit anxious.
Dear Mark: I just dropped my daughter off at Camp and drove over two hours back to the Lehigh Valley alone in the car. With all that time to think, I thought of the summer that lay ahead for her. I know that she will begin each day with a prayer and spend the rest of the day enjoying the freedom that camp provides for her. I know that she will pray with her friends before and after meals and that once a week she will go out to the community to “give back.” I know that she will participate in sports, arts and crafts, and Judaic classes. And I smile because I know that she will experience Shabbat, not as a day of restrictions, but as a day of joy and relaxation.
The name of the camp is not important. There are great Jewish resident camps that service the Lehigh Valley: Pinemere Camp, Camp Ramah, URJ Camp Harlam, Camp Galil, Camp Young Judaea, and more. All provide a wonderful experience.
…But there is so much more to camp that I do not know. My daughter will somehow form an intensely close bond with her bunkmates and the incredible role models she has as counselors. She will somehow come back a stronger young woman and someone that identifies very personally to her Judaism. I see the growth in her at the end of each summer and I don’t know exactly how the Camp does what they do, but I know that she would not have been able to experience it this summer without the scholarship help of the Jewish Federation. I know you have lots of requests for funding from lots of organizations and lots of people. Even with all of this, the Federation came through with what they could to help a teen feel Judaism in her soul and live Jewishly every day of the summer. This is truly an investment in her future, and in Our future, and I am grateful that the Federation helped my daughter have a meaningful, memorable, fun, JEWISH summer.
As we do every year, our Jewish Federation provides needs-based scholarships for summer resident camps. But we never have sufficient funds to meet the scholarship needs and we must seek additional contributions to close the gap. Without the help of our Annual Campaign and committed, generous donors, this young woman might not have been able to attend camp.
So, I start this, and most years, quite anxious.
Will we raise enough funds to help kids go to camp? But this is not just about children going to camp. Will the Jewish Family Service food pantry be able to service all those in need? Will the Jewish Community Center be able to expand its children and youth programming? Will we have the resources to combat the efforts to delegitimize Israel and her right to exist? Will we be able to address the growing needs of our growing older adult community? Will there be sufficient scholarships so every student who desires will be able to attend the Jewish Day School? Will we be able to commit the necessary resources to broaden our outreach and engagement activities enabling young adults a connection to the Jewish community? Will our emergency financial assistance programs run short of funds?
Letters like the one above make me very proud. It should make you very proud. Our ‘system’ works, blending the generosity of donors, with the specific needs in our community, and quality agencies, synagogues, and organizations able to deliver impactful programming. The letter, addressed to me, is really intended for the donors to our Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs.
Rosh Hashanah is a reminder that a new year is beginning. While we assess our past, we also set goals for our coming year. Our communal goals should challenge us, they should inspire us, and they should reflect our values. They should enable us to strengthen our agencies, empower Jewish education, promote excellence in our synagogue religious schools, connect with more Jews, feed the hungry, and send young girls to Jewish camp.
Imagining our goals is easy. Imagining which ones we might not achieve is frightening.
We should be a bit anxious. If not, perhaps our goals are not high enough.