Connecting dots

We’ve never done this before.

Last week, over fifteen community rabbis from all streams met us at the beautiful Jewish community building of JVS, the Jewish Vocational Services, in East Orange. JVS is one of our critical health and human-service partners, delivering a wide array of nonsectarian services to some 20,000 people each year. Since 1939 JVS has been helping people get jobs and dignity, training, teaching and encouraging.

We had a fascinating ‘mini-mission’ tour of the impressive facilities – seeing an ESL (English as a Second Language) class, a basic-skills class, a workshop on computers, a conversation class, a job-search workshop, and much more.

Over lunch we discussed the situation in Ukraine, and the south of Israel. Because our Federation, through our partners in Israel, Ukraine and around the world, are providing critical services and support to hundreds of thousands on a daily basis. And it’s important that we learn about what’s happening and how our support helps this incredible mitzvah take place every day.

And then we had a panel of experts from Golda Och Academy, Jewish Family Services of MetroWest, the Jewish Community Center in West Orange, Greater MetroWest ABLE, and Rutgers Hillel, to discuss the challenges and horizons of Jewish life in our local community, along with Federation professionals.

We’ve never brought rabbis together from our community to have these kinds of encounters. We’ve not really tapped in to the synergies and opportunities that can happen when we bring these leaders together. Until now.

I was so proud to sit there and feel the energy in the room as this group talked with passion and thoughtfulness about who we are and what our community needs. It was a real privilege to have the leaders of communal life meet and discuss real issues. And just a day later we learned that several of the rabbis present have already referred congregants to agencies for direct help.

We’ll do more of these mini-missions. They’re an amazing experience. And they show what we can do together.

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