Placing the “I”

Last month, I had the good fortune to hear Rabbi Paysach Krohn speak at the Bais Yaakov High School annual banquet, a renowned speaker and storyteller, Rabbi Krohn peppered his beautiful remarks with many anecdotes, my favorite of which was a simple statement made often by his father: “The only difference between the words united and untied is where you place the letter “I”.

Weeks after hearing this simple statement, I constantly find myself thinking of it. This week, five members of our wonderful Federation professional team visited Houston, where they and dozens of staff members from across the Federation system took time out from their seminars to visit the Houston JCC and other community sites devastated by Hurricane Harvey. They worked at the Houston Food Bank, the country’s largest food bank, helping with their Backpack Buddy program. They packed over 1,800 bags of food for kids facing food insecurity to take home from school (these are kids who often have nothing to eat at home, so the six extra meals a week really help!), learned about what Federation was doing to help those impacted, and certainly put the “I” in the right place.

Recently, as part of our efforts to reshape our annual campaign structure, we established a new Development Strategic Planning Committee. Their goals include looking at how Federation helps our partners raise money, identifying joint fundraising strategies, and determining how Federation can best serve the entire community as the hub for Jewish philanthropy. I am proud to report that representatives from two of our partners sit on this committee. Yes, you guessed it – this reminds me of where we should put the “I” as well.

And then, there was Parkland. Just days ago, as the Broward County Jewish Community was thrust into mourning over the loss of four of their teens in the unspeakable horror that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Federations leapt into action. Kansas City and Seattle Federations, which have suffered at the hands of gunmen in the past offered support almost at once, while Broward County’s own Federation began preparations to bring the Israel Trauma Coaltion’s experts to town to help in the aftermath. Mister Rogers always told his television viewers that in a crisis, we should “look for the helpers.” We should all take comfort in the fact that these helpers know how important it is to be united in troubled times.

At a time when Israel faces the impact of enemy drones and when Polish law is being re-written with anti-Semitic ink, correct “I” placement is as important as it has ever been.

Shabbat Shalom,

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