It’s no wonder that a sense of precariousness feels like the new norm.
Recognizing that so many are still grieving and have a long road to rebuild and heal, we can — even now — find reasons to be grateful.
To start, there’s the stunning heroism of the firefighters, police, and other first responders, and the compassion of everyday people who opened their homes and hearts to strangers. There’s the uplifting kindness of the local Islamic center in Pittsburgh offering to stand guard at neighborhood synagogues. There’s Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, head of Catholic Charities in New York, coming to my office with a check in hand for Pittsburgh’s victims.
I’m also gratified and inspired to see the Jewish Federation system at work. The Pittsburgh Federation has been and remains the central address in responding to every aspect of the Tree of Life tragedy, working around the clock to heal their wonderfully close-knit community — all while dealing with their own shock and grief. To ease their burden, this week members of our own staff traveled to Pittsburgh to help.
In the wake of the devastating California fires, the Federations there are assessing needs, serving as a crisis center for many of their displaced nonprofit partners, and expanding their social service offerings, including an emergency hotline, counseling, housing assistance, and financial and legal support. To support these efforts, the Sacramento Federation and Los Angeles Federation have opened relief funds.
In Israel last week, our primary overseas partners — the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee — were able to jump into action, helping vulnerable populations in the areas under attack. Almost immediately, 19 emergency checks were hand-delivered to the families of those whose homes suffered a direct hit — including the family of a Palestinian contractor who was killed in the living room of the Ashkelon apartment he was staying in. In just 24 hours, the Israel Trauma Coalition, an organization created and supported by UJA, treated over 200 people for trauma. While a full-blown war was averted, the situation remains tense, and the significant social service needs of the community in southern Israel continue.
Let me end with a heartwarming story about another hand-delivered check I received — this one from a longtime UJA friend and volunteer.
Our friend’s 8-year-old granddaughter was attending a birthday sleepover, and the young partygoers decided to open a lemonade stand. After raising an impressive $71 in what is not exactly lemonade weather, the girls spent 45 minutes debating how to spend the money, ultimately deciding to give it to people in need. However, they didn’t know who to give it to. That is, until our friend’s granddaughter declared, “My Grammy works for the greatest charity in the world!” The money, she insisted, should go to UJA. It did.
Girls, we’re very grateful.
Wishing you all a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving filled with gratitude.