Shalom Chaverim (Dear Friends),
As we head into the last Shabbat in January, I am so energized. Bari and Shari Kanefsky just returned from our recent JFNA mission to Cuba, visiting the Jewish community there. Bari, Shari’s daughter-in-law, had said the trip was incredible and that she was surprised not to see the older, impoverished community she expected, but instead saw a community that is strong, young and proud to be Jewish. Shari found it “truly infectious” to be surrounded by the amazing attitudes of everyone they met, not only toward being Jewish, but to be so while living within the confines of the Cuban government.
Shari and Bari were among a group of 40 Joshua Society members (donors who contribute household gifts of $10,000 or more to our annual campaign) to see the Federation’s work in Cuba. Through the funds provided by Federations across North America, our overseas partner, JDC, provides Jewish education and programs to the community.
This week’s Torah portion is Beshalach (Sent Away) in the book of Exodus. In it, Pharaoh sends the Israelites from Egypt after experiencing the 10 plagues, but has a change of heart and chases after them. The Israelites find themselves trapped between Pharaoh’s armies and the Sea of Reeds. G-d tells Moses to raise his staff over the water and splits the sea, allowing the Israelites to pass. When the Egyptians try to follow, G-d sends the water crashing upon them.
The only thing separating the Cuban Jewish community from their Jewish brethren in Florida and the United States is a body of water known as the Straits of Florida. Through the generosity of our donors, Federation provides life-sustaining needs as well as programs and services that build and engage a vibrant Jewish community there. In a way, we represent Moses’ staff in splitting the distance between our communities. Kol Yisrael Aravim Ze la zeh, each and every Jew is responsible one for the other. And what a blessing it is to be one of the “haves” who can help our brethren who “have not.”