Shep Englander — Federation Journal
How We Can Help Each Other through These Hot, Hazy Days
These past few weeks gave us a taste of normalcy, only to have it sour in the summer heat. After success toward flattening the curve on COVID-19 cases and excitement about summertime easing of restrictions, we’ve faced alarming new summertime surges. These surges combined with increasing uncertainty about back-to-school and back-to-work plans have sparked fear and frustration.
How You Are Helping
One blessing has been our collaborative community. Yesterday, 36 of our senior professionals and rabbis from every part of our community brainstormed together by Zoom about how to address the unique, unprecedented problems that the pandemic is posing for our community members. Marc Fisher, CEO of the Mayerson JCC, discussed how the JCC is continuing to balance welcoming its members with ensuring the highest levels of health and safety. This video shows how they are doing it.
Fighting Social Isolation
We also discussed that for many members of our community, and especially older adults, the longer the pandemic continues, the worse isolation becomes. For those who find technology challenging, the isolation is much worse. Isolation can be a severe health risk unto itself. Our Jewish Family Service (JFS) has invented innovative ways to reduce the “digital divide.” These include providing tablets to older adults that don’t have workable digital technology. JFS also graduated 64 clients from a technology-training program. They are all in their 80s and all Russian-speaking!
Strengthening Community Security
Three of the agencies that we assisted in applying—Rockwern Academy, Northern Hills Synagogue and the Jewish Cemeteries of Cincinnati (JCGC)—were awarded up to $220,000 collectively in Federal Nonprofit Security grants. My colleagues at the Federation, Mark Dowd, Director of SAFE Cincinnati, and Jackie Congedo, Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, were instrumental in facilitating the grants. Mark Dowd explained that, “Federal grants are the most difficult to get. I congratulate our security partners for working diligently and pursuing these grants, and we look forward to helping them implement these grants to help them better secure their facilities. The more secure each individual agency is, the stronger we make our community collectively.”
Keeping Community Members Safe
Thanks to our partnership with United Way of Greater Cincinnati, the Jewish Federation has been able to give out personal protective equipment (PPE), masks and hand sanitizer, to our organizations, including congregations and schools. Much of this PPE has been contributed by P&G.
Civil Rights is Our Battle, Too
In these, hot and hazy days, our civil discourse seems to be boiling into an even more toxic brew. And, in the absence of hope and confidence, conspiracy theories of all types, including some antisemtic ones, seem to be spreading virally. So I was heartened to read Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s column, in which he calls out recent antisemitic outbursts by a few Black entertainers and sports stars. He also addressed our recent loss of a great leader, Congressman John Lewis,discussing the Lewis’s legacy of speaking out against antisemitism.
I was fortunate to meet Congressman Lewis during one of the many times that he addressed Jewish leaders, with whom he maintained close ties. He saw the work of civil rights and of Black-Jewish relations as fused. We hope that other leaders will learn from his example of making common cause with others who share values of a nation free of bigotry and prejudice.
On a personal note, the national focus on fighting racism inspired my mother to write a short reflection on her freedom ride for civil rights in Maryland in 1961. Here is a link to her memories.