One of the fundamental values, in fact the very core of the Federation system, is the principle yisrael arevim zeh b’zeh (we are here for one another). We care for one another.
This value resonates as loudly today as ever, reminding us of our responsibility and obligation as Jews to care for each other – at home in our local community, in Canada where not all Jewish communities can sustain themselves independently, and in Israel and overseas, where Jews may be in need.
At the local level, we are concerned with protecting and caring for the vulnerable members of our community, for the poor, the elderly, the disabled. We ensure that a basic standard of living is in place, including such Jewish needs as kosher food, belonging to Jewish community organizations, having access to affordable housing.
We are committed to ensuring that we offer children, youth and young adults formal and experiential Jewish educational opportunities that develop a strong Jewish identity and a connection to Israel. We do this by offering financial assistance and providing an array of experiences through schools, synagogues, youth groups, summer camps and Israel experience programs, which engage our younger community members with Judaism and with Israel.
At the national level, we are committed to ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table, irrespective of whether they are from a Jewish community of 200,000 with well-developed infrastructure or a Jewish community of 2,000. We provide a forum for collective thought and activity and enable communities who need support to participate in a network that offers strength and connectivity.
At the international level, we are engaged with Israel and with communities worldwide where Jews are living in distress. Our work is not limited by geography.
This past summer, we experienced conflict and distress on multiple fronts. Operation Protective Edge took an enormous toll on all Israelis, most particularly those in southern communities. While we know Israelis are a strong and resilient people, we also know the impact of terror, loss and trauma does not necessarily stop with a cease-fire. Our work to assist does not end when the troops come home. In many cases, it is just beginning.
At the same time, we were also concerned with a deteriorating situation in Ukraine, which placed Jews in significant difficulty. Meanwhile, in France, and elsewhere in Europe, we saw an increase of anti-Semitic incidents.
Through a network of international partners such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel, our Federation system ensures that services and programs are in place to help. For those too frail to leave their homes, it means meal and medication deliveries and daily visits from chesed workers from the JDC. For those who have the capacity and desire to move, it means accelerated preparation for aliyah to Israel and assistance with resettlement in Israel provided by the Jewish Agency.
The mission of the Federation is very simple. It serves as the vehicle through which we connect to all of these concerns.
The genius of the Federation system is that it does it all. The local network of agencies, schools and synagogues, the national and international network of agents and partners – all of their work embodies the key principle of caring for each other. The system allows for a coherent and integrated approach based on a thorough understanding of needs. It allows for dialogue and debate that includes representation from many community sectors. And it fosters connections among individuals and communities for the single purpose of caring and strengthening each other.
During the High Holiday season, let us continue to work together transforming lives, providing for the ordinary and the extraordinary, and let us pray for a sweet healthy year for our families and communities and peace for Israel.
Linda Kislowicz is CEO of Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA.