This Hanukkah has been filled with the light and joy of the holiday season, with Jewish pride shining brightly in our community, with the support of friends, neighbors, and family of all faiths and backgrounds. We are thankful for the strength and energy of our Jewish community, and the diversity of our local celebrations this year, which have taken place from Belchertown to Easthampton, to Greenfield, to Amherst, and throughout Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. This year, the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts has supported new lights shining in our community, including a large new outdoor menorah displayed in front of Easthampton’s City Hall.
This menorah shining proudly for the community of Easthampton is representative of the role our Jewish Federation plays in this community. We did not originate Easthampton’s Hanukkah celebration, and in fact this year’s event was the sixth annual such celebration, but we were able to work together with Easthampton’s Jewish community and bring to fruition a much-needed addition to the public celebration, extending the joy of the holiday.
In Pirkei Avot (“The Ethics of our Fathers”), we read, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it (2:21).” Our Jewish Federation is blessed to continue the longstanding Jewish tradition to caring for those in need, promoting Jewish learning, and supporting the growth of Jewish community. We did not begin the work, but we carry the mantle, and we are proud to join together with all of you as we continue to work together to make a difference for our community and for each other.
In the year ahead, we will prepare for a revamped Ride to Provide event, taking on the tradition begun by UMass Hillel, celebrating our Jewish community’s organizations and groups as we walk and ride together on the path to a stronger Jewish community. We look forward to sharing more in the weeks and months ahead as the Ride to Provide committee comes together and begins to plan. You can also sign up for the interest list now to start getting involved and to learn more.
Thank you for being with us on this journey; with your support, we will continue to make great strides. Please consider helping us close out the 2022 Annual Campaign with strength by making a new or additional donation online or by sending me an email with the amount of your pledge by Dec. 31, 2022.
News from our Jewish Federations of North America Network:
This past Wednesday night, Prime Minister-Designate Benjamin Netanyahu informed President Herzog that he has the ability to form a government. This government, to be led by Netanyahu, will likely be sworn in on January 2nd. Click here for a Jewish Federations briefing that was sent out about the election results. Click here for a summary of the election process and results and here for a detailed explanation of how Israeli elections work, as well as this short Israeli Elections 101 primer video.
You are invited to attend two upcoming webinars:
- On January 4, at 1pm ET, we will hold a webinar on the new government, in partnership with the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI).This will be followed by a series of biweekly webinars on some of the issues arising with the new government. Register here.
- On January 12, at 11am ET, we invite you to a webinar on understanding the LGBTQ+ landscape in Israel today. As Israel prepares to welcome a new government, many members and supporters of the country’s LGBTQ+ community are troubled by the coalition’s inclusion of outspoken opponents of LGBTQ+ rights. Join us to hear the concerns and learn what is being done to support the LGBTQ+ community in Israel. Register here.
Jewish Federations brought Chanukah light and joy to tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews in collaboration with our partners on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries. Working with JDC, The Jewish Agency for Israel and Chabad, we made it possible for Ukrainians to enjoy menorah lightings, festive concerts and special educational programming. In Barcelona, Jewish Federation volunteers led workshops and lessons on the holiday for Ukrainian refugees. In Poland, Jewish Federation volunteer musician Dr. Yuri Vedenyapin joined the Chief Rabbi of Poland on a Chanukah musical tour in ten cities, including at Warsaw’s Presidential Palace where President Andrzej Duda praised the Jewish community for aiding refugees. We are so proud that these relief efforts are powered by our Federation system that to date has collectively raised $84.2 million for Ukrainians affected by the war.
This week, Senate Appropriators introduced the $1.7 trillion Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2023. Many of the key legislative priorities for which Jewish Federations have strongly advocated are in the bill, in particular the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program, Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, ABLE Age Adjustment Act, and major health and mental health programs. At the same time, we are disappointed that other critical priorities such as extension of the Child Tax Credit and Afghan Adjustment Act were not included in the package. We will continue to work with our government partners to advance these important policies and ensure critical funding that will help Jewish communities stay safe, secure, and healthy, and allow them to continue flourishing. Please find the summary here and JFNA’s statement here.