Tragedy -- Again

I am stunned and filled with deep sadness, just like all of you. In fact, I am sickened every time I write about such things. The horrific incident at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, where 10 people died and many others were wounded, has left us all hurt and feeling vulnerable. No family should ever have to go through what the families of the victims are experiencing. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families and the entire Roseburg community.

It is so troubling that this happened in our own backyard. We must remain vigilant as a community. Our community agencies and synagogues are always on alert. We have a strong relationship with both our local police and the local FBI who continue to monitor the region on our behalf. But, as we know, it is very difficult to predict or prevent that “lone wolf.” Only with your help can we try to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. Remember – “see something, say something!”

Sadly in Israel, we hear the news that two parents were killed in a drive-by shooting terror attack with their four young children in the car. Another senseless horrific act.

To be frank, yesterday’s shootings have taken the wind out of my Remarks for this week. I was going to write about our current annual campaign successes and incredible workshops held in partnership with the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation this past week. But they pale in comparison to what transpired.

I do not, however, want this email to be so solemn. There is positive news that I want to share with our community:

On a national level, I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Jewish Federations of North America (our national umbrella organization) $12 million over 5 years, pending the availability of federal funds, to advance innovations in Person-Centered, Trauma-Informed Supportive Services for Holocaust Survivors. This is in tandem with a national, multi-pronged, $45 million effort launched in 2013. Federation fundraising helped provide the match required by the government to access this grant. 

The National Holocaust Survivor Initiative (NHSI) links support from Jewish Federations, foundations, private citizens, and federal, state and local governments to help aging Holocaust survivors live their final years with dignity and security in the comfort of their communities. To date, Jewish Federations have raised $22 million for NHSI.

These new federal funds will greatly impact service providers for the aging, including Jewish Family and Child Services and Cedar Sinai Park. Additionally, the funds will support development of a national technical assistance center to facilitate the spread of tools and resources about person-centered, trauma-informed approaches to serving Holocaust survivors.

This program will be facilitated by a consortium of national organizations including: Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Leading Age, Meals on Wheels America, and the National Council on Aging.

Understanding we had two horrible tragedies yesterday, I do want to share a bit about Sukkot. The festival of Sukkot is supposed to be the most joyous of the three biblically mandated festivals (not so easy at the moment). In the holiday prayers, each festival is given its own descriptive name: Passover is the "Season of our Liberation," Shavuot is the "Season of the Giving of our Torah," but Sukkot is described simply as the "Season of our Rejoicing.”

The Torah mentions no less than three times to rejoice, and be only happy, during Sukkot. No other festival is the subject of this instruction more than once.

Sukkot is a time when we celebrate Jewish unity—as symbolized by the sukkah, whose walls bring us all together; and the four species (lulav and etrog), that symbolize the unity of all Jews. With sadness in our hearts, I hope that we can still find joy for the remainder of the holiday as we stand in unity against violence.

With prayers for peace and calm, allow me to wish you all a Shabbat shalom.



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