Shabbat Shalom from CEO Nora Gorenstein

Dear Friend,

As Shabbat approaches, I am thankful for the opportunity to share with you my gratitude on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and our many constituent and partner agencies. Together, as partners in the work of sustaining our Jewish community here in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties, and supporting Jews in need in Israel and around the world, we carry on a proud tradition of caring for one another in fulfillment of our commitment to community.

One highlight of my week was seeing so many of our community leaders, committed volunteers, and clergy as we came together for two in-person security training sessions last night, coordinated by our Federation, hosted by Temple Beth El and led by Ken Berkowitz, Senior Security Advisor at Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. While we are deeply saddened and concerned by the need to hold such trainings, and the prevalence of antisemitism in today’s world, we are grateful for the opportunity to prepare proactively to address community security, and look forward to expanding our community-wide security initiatives.

This week, together with Jewish Federations across the United States, we marked Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a webinar on how Dr. King continues to inspire us to fight for justice. For a recording, click here. You can also take part in our co-sponsored opportunity for local families to win a trip to Israel! Please visit the website for more information.

Coming up next week, we are offering you an opportunity in partnership with The Braid to enable members of our community to attend LIVE virtual performances of an original Jewish-themed production entitled “Remembrance of Things Present.” It features empowering stories of Jewish strength from the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. We invite you to register to attend either performance, a live reading of these important stories. With gratitude for all of our 2022 Annual Campaign donors, we are offering a free ticket to any current donor who would like to attend, and a subsidized ticket cost to any community member who is not yet a donor. Thank you for making our essential work possible. We hope that you will join us for this important performance.

Updates and reminders from our national network:

This week, Jewish Federations applauded the launch of the Welcome Corps, the new State Department program that creates a mechanism for ordinary Americans to join together to help refugees resettle. Built on a public-private model, the initiative is expected to dramatically increase the resettlement of Afghan, Ukrainian, and other refugees. The program offers participants immediate access to benefits, to work permits, and to a pathway to citizenship. For more information, click here.

We also helped make two major bipartisan letters come together. The first letter urged  Secretary Blinken to increase funding for the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism. The second letter encouraged the State Department to promote interfaith collaboration through the Abraham Accords countries. We also got a shout-out in the newsletter of the House Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism; Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) tweeted about his meeting this week with Karen Paikin Barall and Adam Teitelbaum from our Public Affairs Team.

As a reminder, we are continuing our series of webinars on the new Israeli government with two additional programs co-sponsored by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI).

  • On Thursday, January 26 at 1 pm ET, we will examine the growing debate in Israel over the Law of Return, which gives anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent the automatic right to immigrate to Israel. A number of members of the new Israeli government seek to remove the “grandparent clause,” and the issue appears in signed coalition agreements. We will do a deep dive into this issue and the potential consequences for different communities worldwide of any changes to the law. Register here.
  • On Thursday, February 9 at 1 pm ET, we will focus on the relationship between religion and state in Israel. Some members of the new Israeli government are determined to make changes to the current situation; this issue has also been included in signed coalition agreements. Join us to explore which changes may be made, along with the possible ramifications. Register here.

More than 30 Jewish Federations have partnered with SCN to launch a standardized online form for the public to report threats, incidents and suspicious activity related to Jewish organizations, facilities or community members. Information reported through the form is sent immediately to the 24-hour Duty Desk in SCN’s National Jewish Security Operations Command Center. The form is available on the Houston Jewish Federation’s website at www.houstonjewish.org/security. Also, this week JNS published an op-ed by Julie Platt on how, a year after Colleyville, the Jewish community is crafting new strategies to deal with the ongoing threats to security.

This year, Jewish Federations of North America offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Jewish State! Beginning on Sunday evening, April 23 and concluding on Wednesday, April 26, we will convene in Israel for the Israel at 75 General Assembly, where we’ll dive into key issues of the day, engage in uniquely Israeli experiences, and take part in special celebrations of Israeli Independence Day. For FAQs and a preliminary schedule, click here. To register, click here. Please help spread the word!

There will also be a national mission beginning on Wednesday, April 19 in the lead-up to the Israel at 75 General Assembly. Learn more and register now!

The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Leadership Mission: This mission to Mexico City, which will take place from Friday, February 17 to Monday, February 20, will show you the Jewish Agency’s work on the ground in Mexico and furnish opportunities to connect with the local Jewish community.  The food will be strictly kosher and the program will allow for Shabbat observance.  Register here.  For more information, please reach out to Tali David at talid@jafi.org or Danyelle Neuman at danyellen@jafi.org.

There are many ways to get involved in the Western Massachusetts Jewish community, so please consider taking the next step forward and letting us know how you want to be a part of our work this year!

Shabbat shalom,

Nora Gorenstein
Chief Executive Officer

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