The weekend I wrote this column, I was reading a book my mom of blessed memory gave me called Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean. The book is about how a generation of swashbuckling Jews carved out an empire in the New World in their quest for treasure, religious freedom, and revenge.
It was quite the read of an untold tale of Jewish valor and seafaring adventure during the Spanish Inquisition. The 17th century began with Jews outlawed in the New World and most of Europe, and it ended with our freedom.
Fast forward to today, I’m infused with a daring and adventurous buccaneering spirit to address the challenges in our New World. We are at a momentous time for our Jewish community. Our ability to plan our future will test both leadership and community in 2024. Sinai and Temple are discussing their respective futures—and in the coming weeks, I’m hopeful their conversation to discuss options and opportunities will expand to include the Federation.
My vision for 2025 sets forth a renewal of our community as a welcoming, strong, stable, inclusive, and supportive ecosystem for Jewish life. The vision speaks to the idea that our Jewish community is knitted integrally together, where pluralism is a value rooted in Jewish ideas and tradition.
Watching the news on and after October 7th, I was struck by emotions that, I am sure, were shared by many who have a close emotional relationship with Israel but live far away. People wanted to help but felt helpless at the same time, watching the death toll rise and the worry about more violence to come.
At first, I did the only thing I figured I could do; I sent a donation to Magen David Adom. As an emergency physician and paramedic, this cause seemed to fit with what I had hoped, to help the injured. If I couldn’t do it myself, I would enable those who could.
One of the most controversial aspects of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is the issue of refugees. The false accusation that the creation of Israel was accompanied by “ethnic cleansing” of the local Arab population is one of the pervasive myths that continues to fuel the fires of the conflict and undermines the hopes for peace.
A significant component of Jewish Family Services is speaking with clients and understanding their concerns, worries, and needs. Sometimes, this part of the job requires some “digging” to uncover what has brought the person to our door. I don’t mean hiring an investigator, but instead really hearing what the person is saying.
At January’s Sunday Funday, I led a discussion about the melting pot in Israel, one of the most controversial ideas in our nation’s history. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, said that different people coming to Israel will go through the melting pot. The question that comes up is: Why did Ben Gurion want to implement this cultural assimilation in Israel?
Our Jewish Federation is incredibly proud to be a community resource for all. Over the 60 years I’ve been a part of the South Bend Jewish community, I’ve seen the Federation embrace our differences and emphasize inclusion, kindness, and respect.
To further this aim that our Federation is for everyone, the Jewish Federation Board of Directors, at their January 17th board meeting, voted to repurpose the art supply room into a non-kosher kitchenette.
I met the mystery/crime author Lori Rader-Day at the Midwest Writers Conference in Muncie, Indiana, in July 2023. She agreed to join the Jewish Federation Book Club’s session on Death at Greenway, her novel that takes place at Agatha Christie’s summer home during World War II. Despite its title, this book is not written in the style of a Christie murder mystery, rather, it’s an interpretation of what it might have been like for two women hired to take care of ten children under the age of five who had to evacuate their homes without their parents during the London Blitz.
Food boards are having a moment. We’ve watched them evolve from cheese boards to dessert boards and to butter boards (not too sure about that one), but one thing I am sure of is that most of us truly appreciate a well-done food board. Glorious mixes and matches of flavor, texture, and color are showcased on oversized plates, boards, or trays. Whether made for two, twenty, or two hundred—the numbers don’t matter because, large or small, it always feels a little bit special to be served in such a way.
As you may be aware, our local Jewish Federation is in the midst of its 2024 Annual Fundraising Campaign, which revolves around the theme “It’s Moments Like This.” Kehillah, Chesed, Tikkun Olam—these values weave through our vibrant community.