Shalom Chaverim (Dear Friends),
So here we are in April 2020 and just a week away from Pesach 5780. I have spent my entire 34 year career working in Jewish communal service. During those three and a half decades of service, I have lived through many interesting and seemingly novel times. Passage to Freedom and then Operation Exodus when over a million Jews were brought out of the former Soviet Union to Israel and in far lesser numbers to the USA and Canada. The Intifada, first in 1988 and then subsequent versions. I flew out of Israel the night Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. I watched those horrendous images of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers from the offices of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. And I stared out the window of our empty parking lot while with the Jewish Federation of Sarasota Manatee, as the JCC next door was forced to declare bankruptcy during the recession in 2008.
Yet, not during any one of those remarkable moments did I ever have to “settle” for buying chicken thighs at Trader Joe’s because all the other meat had been sold out (while Lori and I actually enjoyed them very much for dinner the other night, we typically eat chicken breasts) or buy the canned chicken at Costco because all the tuna fish had been sold out. I’ve never had to wait on a line with a six foot gap between me and the person in front of me, standing on a blue piece of tape, and wait as a certain number of shoppers could enter the store while having our carts and hands sprayed with sanitizer. I suspect ten years from now we will look back at these times and…Who knows?
Last week, your Jewish Federation initiated and led a very productive community meeting with a number of our partner agencies with “boots on the ground.” From the tone and energy of the meeting, it was clear that everyone was appreciative of the meeting and desirous of collaborating where practical. Each organization shared what they have been doing and how they have been helping the community. Basic things like diapers, baby formula and daycare are some of the key things people are needing, followed by money to cover rent, insurance, car payments and other daily necessities. One of the areas of deep and legitimate concern is related to the welfare of the staff and service providers of the organizations themselves. The mental strain on folks is unprecedented. We are deliberating and plan to promptly distribute $50,000 of funds recently released by our Board of Directors for this COVID-19 crisis. Other fundraising efforts are being considered, with some underway.
Another major change we are all adjusting to is “social distancing” which is preventing us all from having social interactions with people beyond those we live with. While we long for those days and hope they will return relatively soon, our community organizations are creating opportunities to stay digitally connected. The Martin Pear JCC, for example, has created a virtual programming platform called J at Home. We are glad to see that many of you are enthusiastically visiting and participating on this platform to stay connected and engaged with your fellow members and JCC staff. J at Home has bi-weekly content releases on Mondays and Thursdays as they continue to develop new virtual content. If you have any recommendations for content you are interested in seeing on J at Home, please email Program Director, Megan Montgomery at email@example.com.
This week’s Torah portion is Tzav (Command) in the book of Leviticus, the third of the five books of Moses. The word “command” has interesting meanings for the situation we find ourselves in today. Just yesterday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive “order” restricting residents to their homes as the number of reported coronavirus cases continues to rise in the state, and now topping 1,300. Complying, cooperating and making sensible and smart decisions will be critical in “flattening the curve” and reducing the spread of this pandemic. As we prepare for Passover next week with a living, breathing plague in our world, I ask you to be safe and wish you and those you love continuing good health. And, for those who are or may be ailing, I wish you a refuah Shlema, a complete and speedy recovery.
Light candles on Friday at 6:32pm. Shabbat ends on Saturday at 7:28pm.
President & Chief Executive Officer
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