Shep Englander — Federation Journal
How to Find Our Strength by Fighting Division
Growing up, I couldn’t have told you that Tisha B’Av is a Jewish holiday. But last week, that day felt alarmingly relevant to the moment we are all living through. Tisha B’Av is a day of mourning for the disasters that have befallen our people, originally the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem. But for me, what makes it so relevant now is the teaching that we became defenseless against these tragedies because we became divided by “baseless hatred.” This is a cautionary tale. It says—if we let politics divide us, we can lose everything. But bold, mutual understanding and respect can defeat “baseless hatred.”
On loss and resilience
Shirah Kraus, this summer’s Jewish Community Relations Council’s (JCRC) HUC Rabbinic Fellow, wrote an amazing essay reflecting on Tisha B’Av, and on turning loss into resilience, including her own recent loss of her mother, Rabbi Sissy Coran. She writes: “For the Jewish people, making meaning out of pain is nothing new.” And she urges us: “Now is the time to come together and cultivate resilience.”
Jews have always thrived in societies that respect diverse views and the open exchange of ideas. Yet, now, we are being pulled by an undertow of rejection and extremes at the expense of listening, moderation, compromise. Communities, friendships, and families are being divided.
That’s why the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is taking on some of today’s most divisive issues and illuminating them with mutual understanding and moderation. For example, last week, the Cincinnati Enquirersought out our JCRC Director Jackie Congedo and Eric Ward, Executive Director at Western States Center, a national expert on racism and antisemitism, to discuss the complicated relationships between African Americans and Jews, following recent antisemitic statements made by several high-profile Black celebrities.
Our own Jackie Congedo was also chosen to help unpack contemporary antisemitism and its intersections with racism and other forms of hate as part of a new national leadership development program—Jewish Changemakers. Our national organization, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) launched this innovative online three-week intensive to help over a thousand Jewish 20-to-25 year-olds, many of whom had their summer jobs and internships erased by COVID-19. Jackie told them: “For me [fighting for justice for Jews and for all people] feels like the most Jewish thing I can do.” Her 14-minute dive into combatting extremism and hate is so powerful I wanted to share the video here.
Emma Duhamel, one of six students from Cincinnati, shared: “When JFNA saw so many young Jewish people wanting to become leaders in their communities and that COVID-19 was impeding that goal, they stepped up and provided us with the tools we needed.”
THANK YOU FOR STANDING TOGETHER AND MEETING OUR 2020 CAMPAIGN GOAL
We are proud to announce that we met our goal of $5.7 million raised for the 2020 Jewish Federation Annual Campaign. We are grateful to you and our entire community for your generosity. Thank you to Chrissie and Josh Blatt for leading the way as the 2020 Campaign Chairs and to our leadership and volunteers. We are also grateful to the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati for its powerful matching grants for new increased gifts.
This is an incredible achievement—despite a pandemic and the most sudden economic downturn in a century, you—our community—stood by your commitment. Your support has enabled all the work described above and it’s enabled us to continue to take care of one another. I am so proud of our community.
Stay healthy, remember our values, stay resilient.