WHY FEDERATION? SERIOUSLY, WHY?
(It’s a long one, but worth the read)
We are bombarded by unfortunate reminders of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and around the world, be it the pernicious BDS movement or new laws in Poland outlawing connections to Naziism. Conversely, Jews in America are living the most privileged existence in the history of our people, achieving financial, political and community heights unlike any other time. With this success, for which Jews fought long and hard, has come assimilation and decreasing affiliation with anything Jewish (although Jewish philanthropy continues to grow). A real risk – and a great personal fear – is that our collective success will equate to the deterioration of the Jewish community and all that it entails.
“But why is ‘community’ so important?” many ask today, especially Jewish community. Above all, community is about others, both from within and outside of the Jewish community. It is the strength and unlimited power we have to collectively help those unable to speak for themselves, those who yearn for belonging, those who are unable to meet their own needs - because our aggregate will far outpower our individual voices. There will never be a time when the strength of the Jewish community, as a community, will not be necessary and valued. Never has been and never will be. History has taught us that if we as Jews do not care for one another, no one else will.
The incredible history from which we sprouted demands that we accept the responsibility the millions before us accepted: To care for, assure, and strengthen the Jewish people. We owe our very existence to those who literally died for the privilege of being a part of our community. They bequeath to us the responsibility to plant the trees for many futures to come – futures for our children and their children’s children, just as they did for us. As Jews, we must accept that awesome legacy of perpetuating the Jewish community for the good of Jews and for the good of others.
So, why? Why Federation? Because Federation is all about community, and without community, we cannot fulfill our centuries old traditions, our central tenet of tikkun olam. The essence of being Jewish is communal, of oneness. Only through collective action can we truly personify our Jewish values.
Do not mistake these bold statements for arrogance. I do not believe Federation is the Central Address of the Jewish community, as it was once described. I do subscribe, though, to the precept that Federation has a leadership role and responsibility in perpetuating the Jewish community for the benefit of San Diego and wherever Jews are found.
I do not care what kind of Jew you are, whether you keep kosher or enjoy bacon with your eggs; whether you are Shomer Shabbos or call yourself a “cultural” Jew; whether you married your Hebrew school sweetheart or intermarried for love, no matter your gender or orientation. If you feel any pride, anger, fear, sadness or shame when you read or experience events that feature a Jew, Israel, or Judaism, then you are part of the community and understand the visceral pull of belonging to a people – to fellow Jews. When swastikas deface synagogues, or when Iran espouses the violent end to Israel and its Jewish citizens, or when cemeteries from Israel to Missouri are desecrated, if you feel personal outrage, you exemplify community. If you take pride in the incredible miracle of modern Israel (warts and all), you comprehend the undeniable sense of being a Jew.
We are blessed with incredibly effective organizations that serve vital and impactful roles in our community. Federation's value-add is our unique position as the broadest Jewish community-based organization and, I contend, the one with the leadership opportunity and responsibility of ensuring a strong, vibrant and enduring Jewish community. No other organization occupies this position.
I want my children, and their children (not too soon) to benefit from being a part of the Jewish community and accept the responsibility they inherit from us to commit their time and resources to planting new trees for the future. My sincere fear is that the community as we know it risks disintegration without a strong Federation. The synagogues, schools, and agencies would continue, but we would lose that community that we all cherish in our souls and owe to future generations.
Admittedly, this amateur treatise does not describe the “How” that is changing. I do not link this amorphous principle of community to any specific Federation activities that may pique your passions, as our new direction seeks to accomplish. Today was “Why”. There is plenty of “How” that I am convinced would satisfy your essence as a Jew. Federation is and will continue to improve those connections. I will try to offer success stories that will stir your emotions and, hopefully, demonstrate that you are Heroes – saving lives and stewarding our Jewish Community for future generations to come.
“…membership in a Jewish community has always demanded a sense of shared destiny, manifested in the obligation to care for other members of the community, as well as in the joy of partaking in others’ celebrations.” Rabbi Jill Jacobs