Our Work Continues

Dear Federation Family,

As I begin my time as Interim CEO, I am reminded of the familiar words of Pirkei Avot: You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it. As David Bramzon wrote last week, Federation has a critical role to play here in San Diego, in Israel and for Jews around the world, and I am committed to moving that work forward. I am honored to take up the vital work of Federation, and I feel the weight of stepping into this role as Michael Jeser turns his attention to his health and his beautiful family. Big shoes to fill indeed. I am grateful that Michael and the board have put their trust in me to continue to implement their vision, and I have a deep appreciation for the passion, commitment, and talent of our staff.

It has been a difficult time for our community, and for our Federation family. The challenges of COVID and the isolation, illness, stress and financial hardship the pandemic wrought on so many has only exacerbated the challenges faced by many Jews in need, including right here in San Diego. The pandemic has created barriers to the things we do to gather in Jewish community, even while sparking new creative and often more intimate ways for Jews to come together in dialogue, in prayer, or in learning. The impacts of COVID have, for me, only served to reinforce the importance of the mission of Federation, to care for Jews in need and to strengthen Jewish community and identity.

And of course, on top of COVID, the recent crisis in Israel elevates the urgent need to support the other essential piece of our mission; connecting San Diego to Israel. Like me, I’m sure many of you, while deeply relieved about the cease-fire, are still struggling with worry over friends and loved ones, with frustration over so much of the media coverage and social media vitriol, and with sadness for all those who have lost their lives or were injured as a result of this terrible conflict. Our staff is in regular contact with our partner region, Sha’ar HaNegev, whose residents are once again demonstrating their resilience. Your contribution to our annual campaign provides direct support for our friends in the region. We have identified three critical needs for residents of Sha’ar HaNegev where Federation support is urgently needed, and your contribution today will help to meet these needs in the weeks and months to come. 

  • Respite and therapeutic support: The youngest and oldest members of our Sha’ar HaNegev family experience the highest levels of trauma and stress when tensions run high and during active conflict; funding is needed to provide mental health supports and to allow them to spend some time away from the strain.
  • Reconstruction and Emergency Equipment: During times of conflict in Israel, electricity is unreliable in Sha’ar HaNegev. During the recent conflict, the lack of generators was clearly a problem, especially for those in need of oxygen. Generators will help to reduce the disruption of outages during any future conflicts. And reconstruction is needed for structures damaged by rockets.
  • Relocation costs: 5 Kibbutzim in the region were evacuated, and the residents temporarily relocated. Residents are coming back now, but significant costs were incurred to move them to safety.

It is hard for those of us living in San Diego to imagine living with the stress, fear and uncertainty people living in the region must endure. The invaluable support San Diego’s Jewish community provides for Sha’ar HaNegev is made possible through our annual campaign, which concludes in just a few short weeks. As Sha’ar HaNegev’s partner, we are committed to making sure that we support them in whatever way we can. Please consider making a contribution now. CLICK HERE to help us address their immediate needs and all of the important work of Federation.

As Michael steps back to focus on his health, the work continues. We all wish Michael a complete refuah shelemah so he can take up his good work once again. It is a privilege to partner with the staff, lay leaders, and all of our partners and donors to continue to bring his vision to life. I look forward to connecting with all of you, and hopefully, someday soon, gathering with many of you in person together, b’yachad, in community, kehillah.


Heidi Gantwerk
Interim Chief Executive Officer


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