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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2017 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


 

February 12, 2016  RSS feed
Federation

Text: T T T

Why we give

The Federation’s recent Annual President’s Dinner continues to generate rave reviews across the community. The event was a tremendous success on many different levels. For their incredible individual and combined contributions to the community, Paula and Carl Zielonka were presented with the prestigious Tikkun Olam award by Federation President Rochelle Walk and the more than 700 people in attendance gave the two volunteer superstars a very well-deserved standing ovation.

Another highlight of the evening was the campaign “ask” by Dr. David Rosenbach. His compelling words captivated the crowd and inspired many people to increase their pledges to the Federation. I was extremely moved by David’s eloquent presentation and I’m grateful that he graciously agreed to let us publish his remarks in this space. Although it wasn’t written as a column and, as you’ll see, there were a couple of non-verbal gestures in his presentation, it loses little of its very powerful impact in this format. G.G.

In Paris, before the terrorist attacks of Nov. 13th, before Charlie Hebdo, before the murder of innocents at a kosher market, I asked a Jewish woman what life was like for her family and her: Were her kids staying in France? Was there a future for Jews in Europe? And something so basic we take it for granted – did she feel safe?

This woman ran a busy shop in the Marais, the iconic Jewish section of Paris. She told me that her grown children live in France and, for both religious and economic reasons, Israel and New York City. She calmly reported that she and her business neighbors had hired armed undercover security because they worried the French police might not be timely or responsive when all-too-familiar troubles broke out. And then … words haunting and blunt. She said (pointing to ears, eyes and then head), “We listen with this. We watch with this. And we keep our bags … here.”

Jeffrey Goldberg, tonight’s keynote speaker, wonders if the time has arrived, at last, for Jews living in not only France, but also throughout Europe to finally pack those bags. He’s not alone. Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, in check for decades, have erupted across the continent and exposed the Jewish community there to its greatest risk since the Holocaust.

Protected by the relative security of America we might be tempted to be somewhat cavalier with their plight. “They should just leave France,” people say. “Why stay where you aren’t wanted?” We could perceive ourselves to be exempt from a world that is increasingly hostile to our most fundamental beliefs, to the values we hold so dear. Don’t bet on it.

The reality is that we in Tampa Bay, in the United States need the Jews of France, of Europe and of Israel every bit as much as they need us. We are an ancient people with a breathtaking, often tragic history, and our numbers are small. We really have little choice but to help each other. To paraphrase Golda Meir, “This is our only planet. We have nowhere else to go.”

That explains why we prioritize the rescue of threatened Jewish communities no matter the odds: the famous raid on Entebbe, our determined efforts not so long ago to liberate Soviet Jews, the Israeli policy to exchange hundreds of Arab prisoners for just one captured IDF soldier.

And it is why we donate with such generosity our hard-earned dollars.

Federation helps underwrite many of the services that enhance and enrich our Jewish family, the greater Tampa Bay community and the state of Israel, and we in this room understand that our financial assistance is important, so very important. But today we face new and expanding threats from around the world and in our own backyard, threats that endanger every one of us, Jew and non-Jew. So tonight I ask you to focus less on what is important, and, instead, on what is indispensable, what is inviolate.

We simply cannot permit a world that requires us to negotiate our freedom to enjoy life and to practice Judaism as we see fit, a world that denies our right to sing publicly and proudly, as we did moments ago, our national anthem and Israel’s; to walk outside wearing a yarmulke or a Star of David; to write those words we hold sacred on the doorframes of our homes; to light candles on a Friday night and, l’dor va dor, to teach our daughters to light those same candles; to pray together in peace on the Sabbath; to know that right now there is and always will be a Jewish homeland. And, yes, to shop without fear at a kosher market.

But to ensure our ability to live and worship as we please we must invest in those services and those programs that strengthen the education, the infrastructure, and the institutions of our unique society. And to do that we need to help each other, now as much as ever, whether we call home France, Israel or Tampa Bay.

Tonight I ask you to give to live because a strong and vibrant Jewish community is our greatest defense, because the fate of the Jewish people is the fate of the Jewish state, and because we are ultimately our greatest allies.

So, distribute your cards, contemplate the worth of your pledge, and please please consider the future of our people. When you to take this and this (showing the pledge card and pen), I urge you to think with this (pointing to head) and this (hand over heart).


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