DAY // WAY 35: Practice Tzedakah

Meet Anton, Vira, and Alexey.

They could be your neighbors, members of your synagogue, or the family you see down the street and wave to in passing.

What you don’t know is that Anton, Vira, and Alexey live a world away in Pavlograd—along with 3,000 other displaced persons—in a Federation-funded center.

Unlike most of us, they will celebrate Pesach in their temporary home just a few dozen miles from the frontline of escalating violence in Ukraine. Forced to flee their home for safety, they are just a few of the young, middle-class families that now occupy this center, receiving food, medicine, and whatever else they need to feel safe and secure in these uncertain times.

You can help Anton, Vira, Alexey, and others just like them with a gift to Federation. Because we are all responsible for one another.

 

Conversation with Ahava Tomer

Below is a terribly sad and moving portrait of a recipient of support from the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Victims of Terror. With distance and through media we sometimes forget the real people behind the stories.

Thanks go to several of our partners in Israel, who not only visited the victims but shared these stories with us while juggling everything else that they do. Trying moments like these remind us of our  incredible mission and the truly exceptional and warm colleagues who deliver that mission in Israel and around the world. We have many hands working around the clock to bring what is going on in Israel a little closer to our community around the world.

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Jewish Agency representatives met Ahava Tomer outside the ICU at the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. She has hardly left the place ever since her son, Yonatan, was rushed there two days ago after being stabbed numerous times by a terrorist. She is not allowed to enter and see him often, but she said Yonatan is already doing better and calls her on his cell phone from inside the ICU room. He is laying in a bed near Nadav— a 13-year-old boy who was critically wounded in the same attack.

Ahava said her son was at her bedside every day at the hospital three months ago when she underwent surgery to address a disability she has suffered from since contracting polio as a baby. Now he is hospitalized just down the hall from the ICU where she received treatment and she can’t believe she is back.

She proudly described how Yonatan, who is the youngest of her 11 children, saved many lives during the attack when he shouted “terrorist, terrorist,” and yelled at a little girl to hide in a building. The girl’s father has since called Ahava weeping, and thanking her son for saving his daughter’s life.

Ahava recounted the day of the attack, saying that Yonatan was supposed to come back home from synagogue. When she heard ambulances outside, she tried calling him on the phone but he didn’t answer. She grew more and more frantic, calling him to no avail until a stranger answered the phone, telling her that her son had gotten a scratch and was in the hospital. It took Ahava several hours to get to the hospital since the roads were all blocked. When she finally got there and saw her son in the ICU bed she couldn’t believe it was him and broke down crying.

As she was sitting outside of the ICU room, she noticed that there was an Arab woman sitting across from her. Only later did Ahava realize that this was the mother of the terrorist who had attacked her son and was being treated in a bed right near Yonatan and Nadav — the other victim. After making a request to the staff, the terrorist was moved to another room.

Ahava, who received an emergency grant from The Fund for the Victims of Terror, is in desperate need of the financial assistance. Her husband is also handicapped and since the day of the attack hasn’t been physically able to visit the hospital. The family doesn’t own a car, so in order to come to the hospital she needs to get rides from neighbors and friends. Ahava plans on using the money from The Fund to help Yonatan while he is in the hospital by getting him a decent pair of pajamas and slippers to wear.

“It is very special that there are people around the world that care about someone like me, may I never need such a gift in the future,” Ahava said. “I want to say not just ‘thank you,’ but ‘a thousand thanks’ — I wish health to all those who gave and that may we never need such gifts in the future!”

** Important Note: Everyone mentioned is a real person. We have used aliases to give the family some measure of privacy during these trying times.

Because of your gift, victims of the horrifying terrorist attacks happening throughout Israel will receive assistance quickly—often within 24 hours—so they can start the process of healing.

DONATE TODAY

Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund recipient: Abe Passman

Born and raised in the Jewish community of Minneapolis, Louis Herman never had any children.
But he thought of the community’s children as his children, and used his hard-earned wealth to support causes that focused on Jewish education.  In 1992, Mr. Herman donated $1 million to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation as an endowment. A few years later, the LOUIS HERMAN ISRAEL EXPERIENCE FUND was established.

Since its inception in 1995, the Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund has awarded more than $1,000,000 in grants to over 1000 Minneapolis teens. Many of these grant recipients have returned from their Israel Experiences to become active members of their Jewish community, fulfilling Mr. Herman’s vision of developing a new generation of committed Jews. Mr. Herman’s generosity to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation, and to other Jewish institutions, has touched the lives of thousands of Jewish youth and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Recently, we had a couple recipients of grants from the Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund return from their Israel programs. We wanted to share their words with you, just to show how impactful this experience is to Minneapolis youth between the ages of 15 and 18.

Abe Passman had this to say about his Israel Experience:

I had a great summer!

Abe PassmanThis photo is meaningful to me because I praying and connecting to Judaism with four guys who are now some of my best friends. Along with that, this was at a Synagogue in Sienna, Italy. It is no longer in use except for on high holidays. The rabbi (an orthodox man), however, came in and led Monday morning services with a mixed gender minyan and allowed us to read from a 200 year old Torah! I got an Aliyah!
The Israel experience was amazing. Everyone on my trip really loved who I was and there was never a reason to put on a mask and fake who I am as a person. I now have 13 new best friends, some of whom I have spoken to everyday since we got back. Even though I had been there with my family, this trip allowed me to really appreciate and admire the State of Israel. I am so thankful for the opportunity to go on USY Pilgrimage.

2a. How attached do you feel to Israel? Very much

2b. How knowledgeable do you feel about Israel? Very much

2c. Would you like to be more involved in the Jewish Community? Very much

Thank you so much!

-Abe Passman

To learn more about the Louis Herman Israel Experience Fund, and to see if you’re eligible, visit this page or contact Ariel at 952.417.2319 or abiel@mplsfed.org.

IMPACT: Jewish Learning Brought to Life

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A message from Laura Axler, a PJ Library mom:

It’s funny, but on the same day that Federation asked if I would participate in the PJ Library program, I was rearranging our children’s bookshelves. Like most young families, we have lots of children’s books that my eight-year-old, Jordan, and five-year-old, Becca, love to read. But when we started receiving Jewish books through PJ Library, they earned a special place in our collection.

PJ Library, a program funded in part by Jewish Federation, sends out beautiful, age-appropriate Jewish books to thousands of children—all for free. Every month, Jordan and Becca eagerly await their personalized envelopes, tearing them open and running with their new treasures to me and my husband, Eric, for story time.

Reading PJ Library books together has really helped our interfaith family learn and grow in Judaism and Jewish values. The first book we received, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, quickly became our favorite. It tells the story of a Jewish farmer who retailors a striped overcoat into smaller and smaller items. It’s based on an old Yiddish folksong, so it taught them about Jewish culture, and they loved the story’s award-winning illustrations.

When Jordan and Becca began to age out of the program, I decided to take them to a few PJ Plus events I’d read about, like a challah cover-making workshop and a Havdalah ceremony. Eventually, I started planning and hosting events on my own, including a community-wide Chanukah party. Some families that attended were like mine, with only one Jewish parent. Others families had two. But we all had one thing in common— the desire to bring Jewish learning to life for our children.

At dinner the other day, Eric was reminiscing about our PJ Plus Havdalah, so Jordan and Becca brought out their braided candle and spice box. We ended up having our own ceremony right there at the dinner table!

As we lit the candle and watched the wax drip down, we inhaled the spices and smiled. Our story began with books, but PJ Library has become so much more to us. It’s about connecting families like ours to the Jewish community, to our Jewish story, and to our Jewish future.

You can help Federation continue to provide free programs, like PJ Library, to engage children like Jordan & Becca today in three ways:

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Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

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Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

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IMPACT: A Helping Hand for Ethiopian-Israeli Youth

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When Brancha, an Ethiopian-Israeli girl, was in ninth grade, her mother died. Her grades plummeted, and she was placed in a low-performing vocational high school that held little interest for her.

Fortunately, Brancha had advocates at her side from the Ethiopian National Project (ENP), a Federation partner agency, whose youth programs she had attended for two years. ENP staff helped her refocus on academics and negotiated a new school placement for her. Now a high school graduate, Brancha serves as a police officer in an elite IDF unit.

Brancha’s triumph despite adversity is common for students at ENP, which works to advance the integration of Ethiopian-Israelis into Israeli society. ENP helps youth in 27 communities overcome the cultural, social and emotional challenges of life in Israel. More than 4,300 students get educational support in its scholastic assistance programs, while nearly 1,900 at-risk youth benefit from 19 outreach centers that provide extracurricular activities, emotional support and leadership opportunities.

Because family support is so critical to the success of Ethiopian-Israeli students, parental involvement is integral to ENP’s programs. Counselors include parents in school-based meetings, mediate difficult family conversations and run workshops that help parents build more effective communication and relationship skills.

“ENP’s work with Ethiopian-Israeli children and youth is making a major impact,” says Roni Akale, ENP’s director-general, who notes that the matriculation rate among participants has nearly reached the national Jewish average of 65%.

ENP’s impact lasts well after participants leave high school. Shira, who grew up near ENP’s Youth Center in Beit Shemesh, now volunteers there as part of her army service. “My work is so meaningful here, especially because I am serving as a personal example to each of the kids—as a soldier, as an Ethiopian-Israeli and as one who came from this very neighborhood,” she says. “They see where I am today, and I hope—and know—that they can reach even greater heights.”

You can help Federation continue to support our partner agencies, like ENP, to empower children like Brancha today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

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Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

ATTEND AN EVENT

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IMPACT: Healing Trauma with Help from a Furry Friend

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Five-year-old Guy has spent his entire young life in Ashkelon, an Israeli city only miles from the Gaza border. He knows what to do when sirens warning of incoming rockets wail: run to the nearest safe room as quickly as possible and hide.

So this summer, when a rocket nearly destroyed his neighbor’s house, Guy was safe in a shelter. But witnessing the hit greatly shocked him.

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (3)He became obsessed with a shrapnel fragment from the explosion. He burst into tears at the sound of each siren. Between alarms, he refused to leave the house or sleep in his own bed, clinging instead to his mother. He also became violent, throwing objects and even biting people.

These behaviors are typical of post-traumatic stress, a diagnosis shared by tens of thousands of children and adults in Israel’s south. To confront this epidemic head-on, Jewish Federation’s Stop the Sirens campaign has allocated millions of dollars to support intensive trauma and psychological counseling programs—like the innovative one that’s now helping Guy recover.

Guy’s new best friend is Hibuki, a therapeutic puppy doll developed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a Federation partner agency. JDC’s therapists told Guy that Hibuki was scared and suffering. As Guy talked to Hibuki about its feelings, program therapists gained valuable insight into Guy’s own fears.

“Ordinarily we don’t have a way to know why a small child is responding to the trauma they have experienced in a certain way,” said Dr. Flora Mor, a JDC psychotherapist. “I am repeatedly amazed to see the change that begins to take place once a child ‘adopts’ a Hibuki doll.”

After a few days, Guy was significantly more relaxed and his violent behavior decreased. He gave up his piece of shrapnel, began participating in activities and no longer clung to his mother. And as he continues healing, Hibuki will be a treasured companion.

Hibuki is only one of the many invaluable tools Federation partner agencies like JDC, The Jewish Agency for Israel, the Israel Trauma Coalition and others are using to help alleviate the impact of a summer of conflict.

You can help Federation continue to support our partner agencies today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

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Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

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IMPACT: The Country of My Heart – A Journey from France to Israel

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I grew up in Nice, France. But when I was three, I left with my family to Israel. We lived there for two and a half years before my family decided to move back to France. After that, I vowed that one day, no matter what, I would return to live in Israel. Deep inside, I knew it was my true home.

I wasn’t brought up in a Jewish community and my family wasn’t religious. Even so, I never felt comfortable living in France as a Jew. I was always mindful of the threat of anti-Semitism.

In recent years, it’s gotten worse. Synagogues and schools have been attacked; kosher markets broken into. Today, wearing a kippah or amagen david, or showing any signs of being Jewish, can be dangerous. That’s why I designed a special magen david necklace for myself that isn’t so easily recognizable.

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (4)A year and a half ago, I made the decision to leave France for good. I made aliyah with the help of Federation’s partner agency, The Jewish Agency for Israel.

After I arrived, I lived with other olim—recent immigrants. We understood each other and could share our experiences. I started volunteering to help other newcomers like myself.

Then I found a job. And I’m happy to say that I have just become a counselor with The Jewish Agency.

It’s not always easy to be here—to meet people and to understand a new culture. But despite all the difficulties, I never doubted my decision to make aliyah.

During Operation Protective Edge, my family asked me to return to France. They told me it’s not safe in Israel. But I told them it’s not safe in France. Every day is a battle there to live as a Jew.

That summer, rioters took to the streets of Paris, smashing windows of shops owned by Jews and throwing firebombs. I wish my family didn’t live in such a hostile and dangerous place.

Today, I’m proud to say that Israel is my home and my country. With the help of Federation, I have made aliyah and can finally be a Jew without fear. But there are so many others who cannot. Which is why I’m also so grateful for Federation’s continued support.

We’re all one Jewish community, and I’m very proud to be a part of it. For that, Federation, I say: todah rabah.

Through Federation, you can help empower Jews like Carole Sebbah, and assist in their Aliyah efforts, today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

ENGAGE_60DOI
Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

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CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES

IMPACT: Finding Family in Israel

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Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Hannah Larson has a unique perspective on serving in the Israeli military given that she was born abroad. “As Israeli soldiers, we are creating a safe haven for Israelis, and for anyone that wants to come to Israel. We don’t just protect Israel, we protect Jews from all over the world.”

Hannah herself grew up in the U.S., in a family that imbued her with a love of Zionism. “I always had the idea of moving to Israel and making Aliyah,” she says. “But I had never been and needed to see it for myself.”

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (2)Hannah saved up her money, learned Hebrew, and joined Sar-El, The National Project for Volunteers for Israel. It didn’t take her long after arriving in Israel to confirm that she’d been right about her hunch – at age 19, she was on her way to the Jewish State for good.

Jewish Federation was with Hannah during every step of her journey. Through Federation supported Garin Tzabar (a program of The Jewish Agency for Israel), Hannah was able to make Aliyah and quickly integrate into her IDF combat intelligence unit.

Garin Tzabar also provided a home away from home for Hannah and other “Lone Soldiers” – those serving in the IDF without immediate family in Israel.

“I didn’t have family to come back to on weekends from the military,” she says. “Through Garin Tzabar, I spent my first two months in Israel living on a kibbutz. That provided me with a home and friends – an adopted family – to have Shabbat dinners with. It was really amazing.”

As her time in the military came to an end, the Federation-supported “Wings” program (also funded by the Jewish Agency) helped prepare Hannah for civilian life, while the Nativ program for new immigrants gave her an essential understanding of Jewish identity in Israel. She’s currently studying counterterrorism, and plans to remain involved in safeguarding the security of the Jewish State.

“Jewish Federation is the reason I made Aliyah. It’s the reason I plan on staying in Israel and building a family here,” Hannah says. “It has helped me make my way, and connected me with so many Israelis.”

Hannah – now one of those Israelis – tells of one family she lived with for a few months while searching for an apartment of her own. “They opened their home and their hearts. They took me in as if I was one of their kids. That ‘Israeli hug’ – that’s what made me stay here.”

You can help us honor our soldiers in Israel, and assist in their Aliyah efforts, today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

ENGAGE_60DOI
Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

ATTEND AN EVENT

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES

IMPACT: Helping the World Over

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With partner agencies like JDC operating in more than 70 countries around the world, odds are you’ll run into Federation on your travels. Sheri and Steve did in Morocco.

Originally a haven for Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, Morocco has been a home to Jews for hundreds of years. Today the small, vibrant Moroccan Jewish community is a particularly active JDC partner, achieving an exceptional degree of self-sufficiency and serving as an example for other Jewish communities the world over.

Jews have been living in Morocco since Roman times. Moroccan Jewry – a unique community with a rich heritage – has undergone significant demographic change over the past half-century, with emigration largely responsible for reducing its numbers from their mid-1900s peak of 240,000.

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (7)Today, there are some 4,000 Jews in Morocco living among a predominantly Muslim population of over 32 million people. Despite this minority status, the bond between Morocco’s Muslims and Jews has remained strong, and Jewish communal life in Morocco offers a model of coexistence that many in the West are unaware of.

The Jewish community of Morocco has succeeded in maintaining a strong Jewish identity and is very well organized. It includes two Jewish school systems, welfare services, medical facilities, and homes for the aged. The majority of Morocco’s Jews – between 3,000 and 3,200 – live in Casablanca, a thriving center of Jewish communal life and home to over 20 functioning synagogues, three Jewish social clubs, kosher restaurants, and most of the community’s infrastructure.

While the Jewish community remains vibrant and dynamic, the community is cognizant of the need for security measures at Jewish schools and institutions. This, together with a rapid rise in the cost of living, has created financial challenges for the community that have necessitated cuts in allocations affecting a range of welfare, medical, and school programs.

JDC works in cooperation and partnership with local leadership and the Council of Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization representing Jewish communities in Morocco, to address these challenges. Together, they offer financial and technical assistance to Jewish institutions and programs in Casablanca and seven smaller provincial communities to help in providing necessary health, welfare, and educational services for Morocco’s Jews.

You can help us support our partner agencies, such as JDC, today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

ENGAGE_60DOI
Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

ATTEND AN EVENT

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES

IMPACT: Summer Camp for All

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Gavin Mason almost couldn’t go to summer camp. A 9-year-old boy with Down Syndrome, Gavin was rejected by a summer program that couldn’t accommodate his significant developmental delays. His mother, Lynne, was used to fighting for him, but with money scarce and expenses high, it looked like Gavin would have to sit this summer out.

And then Federation stepped in.

Through a Federation-supported scholarship fund, Gavin was able to attend a local Jewish camp, which not only accommodated him, but welcomed him with open arms.

#60DaysMJF Images for E-mail and Blog (5)“Far from treating my son like any sort of a burden, the camp staff all behaved as if we were doing them a great honor by giving them the opportunity to share their camp with my son,” says Lynne. “They assured me, as one voice, that people with differences have something unique to contribute to the community. They were eager to see what Gavin would contribute and how they could help him do that.”

The staff and volunteers went out of their way to create an inclusive environment for Gavin. And to help the non-verbal boy communicate with others, a student volunteer created handmade picture symbols to represent his camp experience, including Hebrew words like “tevah” and “seder.” Long after camp was over, those symbols helped Gavin talk about his camp memories and his favorite summer activities.

The camp’s dedicated staff also helped Lynne feel comfortable giving her son more independence. “My outlook and the way I saw Gavin changed. I felt less fearful for his future when I saw that he could engage successfully with others without me,” she shares.

Although Lynne and Gavin aren’t Jewish, this Federation-supported camp provided a new kind of family for the Masons. “When the camp staff treated Gavin as a gift and a blessing, I knew we had common ground,” says Lynne.

“It is far too common to look at children with special needs as a burden, not cost-effective and too much trouble, and then to provide services to the absolute minimum the law demands, and only when pressed.” Federation, she says, sees Gavin as so much more than that; it sees him as she sees him. “It takes faith to see a child with special needs as a gift. And Gavin is truly a gift.”

Through a donation to Federation, you can help give the gift of inclusion and the joy of summer camp today in three ways:

GIVE_60DOI
Give
 to change lives locally and globally through a gift to the Minneapolis Jewish Federation Community Campaign, which builds community, cares for the welfare of Jews everywhere, and maximizes participation in Jewish life.

DONATE

VOLUNTEER_60DOI
Volunteer 
by investing your time—make calls at a Call for Change phone-a-thon, join a committee, or become a campaigner.

SIGN UP TO CALL FOR CHANGE

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

ENGAGE_60DOI
Engage 
by exploring the many ways to get involved with Federation, from attending an event to exploring leadership opportunities, to hopping on our upcoming Campaigner’s Mission!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGNERS’ MISSION

ATTEND AN EVENT

CONTACT FEDERATION STAFF ABOUT ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITIES