The JCC’s Bulletin dates back to the 1930s, when it was a premier source of news for the local Jewish community. We are proud to continue this tradition of keeping our JCC community informed via our virtual Bulletin.
The bulletin circa 1974
As we come to the season of giving thanks, I want to share an experience I am extremely grateful to have taken part in. Earlier this month, I was proud to join UJA-Federation on a rabbinical and community leadership solidarity mission to Israel.
While in Israel, our group had the opportunity to visit with evacuees and staff and volunteers from UJA-funded agencies who are doing life-saving work on the ground. We also met with families of hostages and attended the funeral for fallen IDF Staff Sgt. Lavi Lipsgitz.
The country never felt so heavy. Heavy with grief and in mourning, Israel was quiet. And for those who have been to Israel, you know Israel is always bustling. This time the country felt somber.
At the same time, everyone we encountered expressed their gratitude for our presence.
“Thank you so much for all you are doing. We could not get through this time without you. You have done so much for Israel and the Jewish people.”
Imagine… Thanking us just for being there, when they are hurting so much. Yet, the expression of how much we need each other during these difficult times was so profound as we shared hugs and cried together.
For me, I had a very personal experience while our plans were changing on the fly due to ongoing security concerns. When we were told that we would not be able to go to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon as planned, we quickly regrouped to visit the Dead Sea where about 3000 displaced families are staying.
To give some context, between the survivors of the Gaza envelope that have been relocated from the region, to the communities in the north evacuated because of attacks from Hezbollah, more than 250,000 people have been relocated. Everyone left their homes like refugees and left everything behind. For those surviving the attack, many had nothing remaining to move. Entire villages were completely destroyed.
When we arrived at the Dead Sea, we entered into the David hotel and it became clear that Kibbutz Be’eri was being housed there. A community of just 1,100 people, Kibbutz Be’eri had 130 members killed and 40 kidnapped into Gaza—including men, women, and children.
My uncle Gili Molcho is the manager of Kibbutz Be’eri, so when we finished the tour, I asked our guide if he was there. He quickly got on the phone and called him to see me. I had never expected to see my uncle during the trip, and honestly, when I saw him, we just ran to each other and I cried like a baby. It was a moment that I will never forget in my life.
This community of Be’eri felt betrayed and abandoned. Everything they believed to be true about their safety, security, and the infrastructure to protect them failed. However, what they do have is complete faith in the Israeli people.
Hearing from my uncle that despite the devastation, the focus now is the effort to provide emotional support, housing, and basic necessities was a moment of pride for me. For he knows what needs to be done to support these families that need him.
During our trip, we witnessed the resilience and unity of Israelis in the face of this darkness, and it has been truly inspiring. Thousands of volunteers are showing up to support families, provide essential supplies, feed the soldiers, and pick crops, ensuring food does not go bad. Everyone, and I mean everyone – is doing something.
This spirit of resolve that we are in this together permeates. There is a collective unity of purpose that we the Jewish people, not only Israelis, feel all around the world. We have a shared understanding that together we are stronger!
There was also recognition and concern about our communities back home. Even while they are fighting for their lives and their homes, the Israelis we met were well aware of the war we are fighting on our front on college campuses, in schools, in the media, and on our streets. They are as concerned for us as we are for them. The phrase “we are one” never felt so strong and perfect.
Needless to say, it was a short, but emotional trip overloaded with anguish, anger, and grief. At the same time, we also witnessed the best of Israeli society. With love and compassion, everyone offered support, healing, and comfort during the most challenging of circumstances, during the worst of times.
I am so honored and grateful to have been able to represent the Joan and Alan Bernikow JCC of Staten Island community. I hugged, cried, smiled, supported, and offered words of love and condolence, on your behalf, and on behalf of all whose hearts are with Israel. As we share in this season of gratitude, I am grateful for the work our community is doing here to support our family in Israel.
On behalf of our family here at the JCC, I want to wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving. May the coming holiday season be a brighter one for all of us!
-Orit Lender, Chief Executive Officer
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