Hope and the ability to see a better future and create it have been the underlying strength of Judaism for centuries. Hatikvah, “The Hope,” is the title of Israel’s national anthem. It references thousands of years of Jewish history and a contemporary list of wars and hatred that are transcended by one value that overcomes all others: hope.
Twice a year I speak at the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding Youth and Prejudice Workshop, co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation. I tell of my father’s stories as a youth in Poland, his years in the Mauthaussen concentration camp and his life in America. I relay one of his favorite sayings, perhaps one that enabled him to survive each day to the next: “We are a people who believe that tomorrow will be better than today.” But central to the stories are his actions that, even in the face of unmeasurable hatred and existential threats, brought about his tomorrow being better. He knew he had personal responsibility, and that responsibility would benefit him and others.
To be Jewish means to believe that whatever circumstances befall us, we will endure and as a result grow stronger.
So sure are we that we will survive that Mordechai tells Queen Esther at a time of Persian persecution, “…if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from elsewhere.” Mordechai has no doubt in Jewish relief, deliverance and future. His only question is whether Esther wants to be part of the story or not.
I presume that the author(s) and redactor(s) of the Book of Esther completed their work many years later, perhaps at a time when Jewish life had clearly survived the threats of historical (or allegorical) Persia. From the safety of hindsight and history, they could look back and write a parable of hope and confidence, certain that if Queen Esther had decided otherwise, the ultimate story of the Jews would turn out fine due to the actions of others.
But when you are living through the trying and difficult times, it is unrealistic to believe as Mordechai. Certainly we in the Lehigh Valley do not have that luxury. While we are a vibrant Jewish community with great depth, we know that we are not a Jewish community with a significantly growing population. Therefore, we must rely on ourselves and not, as Mordechai noted, that help will come from “elsewhere.”
We have had remarkably positive response to our 2015 Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs, which ends in 90 days. Increases are coming in at all levels, from $50 donors and from $50,000 donors, and from everything in between and beyond. We are being told the same thing over and over: we know increasing our gift is important because we know the Federation singularly cares for and maintains our Jewish community. A Federation past president is fond of saying that he places a priority on giving to Jewish causes because “no one else will step forward to support the Jewish community.” There is no “elsewhere” and there is no one else. It will be our actions that will determine the quality of our tomorrow.
Now is a critical time. We are entering our annual allocations and fund distribution process. We decide how to divide up our resources to meet Jewish needs. Having your contribution in now (or your pledge and you will be billed later for the payment) will enable us to allocate wisely.
Our Federation is attempting to implement its strategic plan to create important change for our community. All of our agencies make strategic decisions on their programs and activities. But the ability for us to grow senior services, enroll more students at the Jewish Day School or JCC early childhood programs, provide additional counseling to teens dealing with divorce or depression, send more young adults to Israel or expand support services to adults dealing with their aging parents rests with each of us taking individual responsibility for improving our community. And that can be done through an increased contribution to the Federation’s Annual Campaign.
While my father spoke of believing that tomorrow will be better than today, he concluded this saying with, “and that belief inspires us in our actions today.” Unlike Mordechai, he never would condone someone’s inaction based on the hope that someone else would respond.
Please join me in working to make tomorrow better than today. You can make your contribution, or you can increase a previously made contribution, by calling our office at 610-821-5500 or contributing online at www.jewishlehighvalley.org.
Let us not look around and wait for others to help our Jewish community. They are not there. But we are here right now, ready to act.