Standing as one

September 5, 2014

Other News

These past months our community, world Jewry and the people of Israel have faced enormous political, moral and life threatening challenges. Facing these challenges requires collective and individual thoughtfulness, wisdom and fortitude. We must break down complex, interlocking issues to ones that can be examined through the lens of our teachings, traditions, and what we hold sacred and immutable. We need to discuss with our family, friends and trusted leaders about what we individually and collectively must do, and what sacrifices we must make.

We have seen Israel under attack by an enemy dedicated to its destruction; one that sacrifices its own citizens as human shields. We have been horrified by the discovery of more than 30 tunnels designed infiltrate Israel in order to kidnap, maim and kill unarmed Israeli citizens. We have seen a precipitous rise of anti-Semitism around the globe, with attacks rhetorical and actual, resulting in injuries and deaths. We have seen support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) by the Presbyterian Church USA, the largest Presbyterian movement in the United States, which voted to divest its investments from three American companies doing business in Israel.

The challenges have been many, substantive and frightening, but our responses have been clear, strong and unwavering. Our community gathered 600 strong on July 24 at the Sandler Family Campus to express support for the state of Israel and our sorrow over the fallen IDF soldiers, Israeli civilians and innocent Palestinians sacrificed by their leaders. Thanks to generous donations from so many of you, we exceeded our fundraising goals in the Stop the Sirens emergency relief campaign, part of the Jewish Federations of North America $30,000,000 appeal.

The UJFT Community Relations Council had Reverend Al Butzer, a local Presbyterian minister with national stature, address our community regarding his resistance to and rejection of the BDS decision by the Presbyterian Church USA. Three representatives of our UJFT Holocaust Commission were in Israel as guests of Yad Vashem presenting our What We Carry program to Holocaust educators from around the globe. The intermittent blaring of the sirens only brought further resolve to those present to hear how the memories of the survivors and lessons of the Holocaust can be taught more effectively in the global classrooms.

Now we have entered the Jewish month of Elul, a period for individual introspection on how we have behaved in the past year and how we can improve upon that behavior in the coming year. Most recently, Jonathan Konikoff provided the answer as he spoke about becoming a Bar Mitzvah, a symbolic adult in the Jewish community. He spoke of individual responsibility and obligation to pursue the mitzvah of tzedekah, to pursue righteousness and justice, to do what is right, to perform the extraordinary deed.

Our UJFT annual campaign offers us the opportunity to stand up as one, resist the threats, affirm our Jewish heritage, and collectively improve upon our past efforts. It all starts with one: one person, one event, one idea, one gift. We are confident that you and all of Jewish Tidewater will be the ones who change lives for the better.

May you have good health, peace and prosperity in the coming year, 5775.

Miles Leon

Harry Graber

Letter to the Editor