Having been born, raised and living most of my adult life in the Northeast, Labor Day conjured memories of swim clubs closing, school opening and most importantly putting all whites (jeans, shoes, pocketbooks) away for next season. Labor Day weekend was one of my first major adjustments when moving to Dallas as the weather wasn’t any cooler, my boys were back in school in mid-August, and I could still wear my white jeans in December. But, preparing for and celebrating Rosh Hashanah remained constant, whether in New Jersey, New York or Dallas.
Whether it be when I was young and our kitchen was packed with the matriarchs of my family making gefilte fish, cutting up the apples, seasoning the brisket, or in my kitchen in far North Dallas as I tried to balance full time work with the joy of holiday cooking for a full house, Rosh Hashanah was not just about the Rabbi’s sermon or the Amidah and Avinu Malkeinu, it was about the sense of family, of community.
This year we continue to live in unprecedented times, unchartered waters. The sense of family, of community will look very different for most, if not all of us. Some will have families with spacious backyards and patios where social distance dinner and lunch can be shared. Some will be in synagogue or under tents, others will be on zoom with others finding ways to spiritually connect independently. Whichever way you find yourself davening during Rosh Hashanah, the zichron truah of the Shofar will take on a more significant meaning.
In Biblical times, the Shofar was blown to communicate signals in battle and announce certain religious occasions. The Shofar sounds instill a call to action. In my adult years, my professional and volunteer roles were mostly in the world of Jewish philanthropy and in the Jewish Federation system. On Rosh Hashanah when I would hear the shofar blow it harkened in me the excitement of the beginning of a New Year and, at the same time, anxiety set in as I also knew this meant the launch of a new Annual Community Campaign.
This year the excitement is elevated. This year HAS to be better than last. May we be spared a tornado and pandemic. May racial and political tensions lessen and a vaccine be found. And, to be vulnerable with you all, my anxiety is also heightened. I am worried about our Annual Community Campaign as we learned in the past few months our local partner agencies, schools and synagogues rely heavily on the collective dollars raised annually by the Jewish Federation. It is not the Federation that supports our local institutions, regional organizations and overseas partners – it is the 5,000 donors who through the Federation, allow millions of dollars to be granted here in Dallas, in Israel and around the world.
This is the year for those of us who are blessed to heed the Shofar-like call to action. I am not asking any of you to do anything more than what I am asking of myself. As the Shofar sounds this weekend, I ask you to join me in reflecting on how do I want to be written in the book of life this year. What do I want to tell my children and theirs when asked what I did during the pandemic of 2020/5780. How do I want our Jewish community here, in Israel and around the world to emerge, to look like, after this subsides.
For those of us who can, who are able, we need to be there more than ever for those who cannot. Those who were facing challenges prior to the pandemic, their struggles are even greater. Many of our neighbors, friends and family are finding themselves in need of support like never before. More families are lining up outside of the JFS Food Pantry, many of them for the first time. Over 20,000 meals to our Seniors have been distributed outside the JCC. Enrollment in our Day Schools are somewhat stable, but more of the families need financial assistance. Members of our Jewish community find themselves with eviction notices, on furlough or out of work. For those we aspire to be Here For You. Here For Good. However, we, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, can only achieve this if those who can, will.
This is not the year to think, "If I increase my annual gift, what are they going to want me to do next year?" This is not the year to be use a SALY (same as last year). This IS the year to push oneself to making a gift to the Federation’s Annual Community Campaign that reaches the height of feeling great and just shy of it being painful; give until it feels good! This IS the year that any increase or new dollars to the Annual Community Campaign committed before December 30, will be matched 50 cents to the dollar by the Jewish Federations of North America’s Human Services Fund. THIS is the year to know your gift to the Federation’s Annual Community Campaign will make an even greater impact than ever before. THIS IS THE YEAR! Help us help the community to be Here For You. Here For Good.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah tovah um’tukah,