I would be remiss if I did not begin by acknowledging that many of us have our hearts turned to events in Israel and Palestine today. The violence grows closer to us as we hear from family members and friends who are living with the terror. Though members of our community many have different responses to the violence, its causes and solutions, we all share a heartfelt prayer for an end to the bloodshed and fear.
I pray for those who are working toward a resolution of this conflict, toward reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, and toward peace and security for all who dwell there, Jews, Muslims and Christians, Israelis and Palestinians alike.
While events in Israel tear us apart with anguish for all the victims, it is essential that we not lose hope. As Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav implored, upon hearing of destruction of Jewish communities during the Russian pogroms, “Gevalt, Yidden! Jews, for heaven’s sake, do not despair. Gevalt, Yidden, do not despair.”
We still have hope as long as we don’t feel helpless. Each of us can do something. Each of us has a strength, resources, mind and heart that we bring to whatever cause moves us. Rather than focus on what we cannot do—and that is a list that we can add to without end—there are ways that each one of us can make a difference. And we should not give up trying.
This coming Sunday, October 18 from 4 to 5:30, members and friends are invited to take part in the HBT Tikkun Olam Networking Event. Come and learn how HBT invests our volunteer time and energy to make a difference in our neighborhoods, our city, our Commonwealth and our world. You will learn about meaningful opportunities for you to bring your unique energy and passion to the holy work of repairing the world.
I also want to share an important new anti-poverty initiative from Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), the Jewish federation that raises money from the Jewish community and allocates funds for community needs. Despite the recovery from the 2008 recession many Jews remain in dire economic straits. In the past three years, 3879 individuals desperately turned to CJP and its agencies for help, without any community outreach. Of those who asked for help 75% had Bachelor’s degrees, and 37% had graduate degrees. They were all ages and family configurations. While we might think of Jews as affluent and comfortable, the truth is that regardless of outward appearances, many Jewish individuals and families in greater Boston are struggling.
We know this in our own synagogue community. For many years, we have tried to send a message that no one should be left out of our congregation because of financial difficulty. This past year, our leadership has worked to craft a message of openness and welcome and is considering the meaning of “dues” and the expectations that come with dues. Sustaining our community is our primary goal. We are not interested in reviewing people’s financial statements or asking for justification for people’s support. We want to be a spiritual home, not a private club.
And yet, for some individuals and families this is not enough. CJP’s new initiative increases support for families who are struggling financially. These resources are available to help YOU, whether you are living in dire straits or seeking to avoid a looming financial crisis.
CJP has devoted significant resources, both to invest in caseworkers and to increase available funding. With a combined action plan and integrated approach, those in need only have to fill out one “common application” for all the agencies. Among them, Jewish Family & Children’s Services assigns a caring caseworker and can help with food assistance, housing issues and accessing public benefits, Jewish Vocational Service offers career counseling and training, and Yad Chessed provides emergency funds.
To bring your need to a compassionate provider, contact http://raiseyourhand.cjp.org/ or call the warmline at 1-800-CJP-9500.
In addition, I want you to know that I am available to offer confidential support and a modest amount of emergency funds from the Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund. We are blessed to have members and friends who contribute to this fund to ensure that people can access funds in a confidential and compassionate manner.
Our work to repair the world, Tikkun Olam, starts with healing ourselves. If you are in need, step up. If you can lend a hand, step up. If you can donate funds, step up. This is what makes a holy community, joining together through the give and take of life, keeping the flame of hope burning in our hearts.