Amid these Days of Awe, I remember one of my favorite Torah portions, Nehemiah, which describes how our ancestors celebrated Rosh Hashanah when they returned to Israel from Persia after a long exile. It was a time of rebuilding and renewal, and the people sought inspiration from the words of our prophets.
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, men and women gathered in Jerusalem as Ezra, the scribe, read to them from the scroll of Moses. He said to the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; you must not mourn or weep … Go, eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord.”
Then and now, Rosh Hashanah symbolizes hope, communal joy and the admonition to share our blessings with our fellow Jews.
These are the very same principles that have guided our Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia throughout its proud history. For more than 110 years, Federation has served as the convener of our Jewish community — working in partnership with our generous and compassionate donors and our committed corporate sponsors to do truly extraordinary things for our people
here in Philadelphia, in Israel and around the world.
We fund programs and services that feed the hungry. We give hope and a sense of community to the frail, isolated and unemployed.We inspire preschoolers, children, teenagers and young adults to make joyful and lifelong connections to their Jewish heritage through PJ Library, Jewish day schools, Jewish day and overnight camps, Hillel activities, subsidized trips to Israel and so much more.
Through our Federation involvement, we who are blessed with health, happiness and the love of friends and families share our blessings with others who most need our assistance.
During these Days of Awe, we delve deep within our hearts to reflect on our successes and shortcomings in the year that has passed. We resolve to improve ourselves in the year to come so we may be judged worthy of inclusion in the Book of Life.
Our Federation also engages in introspection and self-evaluation during this holy season. We recently published our own version of the Book of Life — the Community Impact Report. Throughout the pages of this publication, we chronicle the many life-transforming achievements we have realized from Sept. 1, 2011 through Jan. 31, 2012.
We recognize the powerful impact we have had on more than 3,200 older adults, who are now able to live independently and with dignity in their own homes, thanks to a comprehensive network of supportive services. We rejoice in the vibrancy and vitality of Jewish life on area college campuses. These communities engage more than 5,100 young men and women in Jewish community-building, religious, educational and leadership-development activities.
We revel in our ability to enable nearly 1,000 community members to experience Israel first-hand through missions, Birthright Israel and other high-impact Israel experiences. And we relish our role in providing physical, educational and emotional support services to more than 60,000 young people at risk in our Jewish homeland and in the former Soviet Union.
While we celebrate these considerable accomplishments, we recognize that we can and must do more. We urge you to make time to read our Community Impact Report from cover to cover online at: jewishphilly.org.
We know that you will take pride in the wonderful work that you have helped make possible through your support of our Federation annual campaign; and we are certain that you will renew and increase your commitment in the new year to come.