By Daniel Chejfec
I came back this past week from the General Assembly of The Jewish Federations of North America (formerly United Jewish Communities) which took place in Washington, DC. The convention was very rich in ideas and discussions on the realities of Jewish life in America today, the Iranian threat, Jewish Identity and Peoplehood and much more. During the Delegates Assembly, the Chair of the Rabbinical Council of JFNA presented an interesting idea: "all Jews are VIP"
We all know what VIP means, or do we?. His take was not the traditional "Very Important Person", but a Jewish twist to it. While thinking about how do we define what it means to be Jewish, he stated that as Jews, our choices are determined by our Jewish Values ("V"), not only those embodied in text of the Tana"ch but also those defined by our actions as a community. As individuals, our Identity ("I") defines us...you could say this is another way of saying that as Jews we are obsessed with what it means to be Jewish; we engage in a never ending search for that meaning, and it is the journey what defines who we are more than the destination. But one of our characteristics as a people is to act with a sense of Purpose ("P"), meaning that we act convinced that there is a reason for what happens around us and for what we do; history is not random but it has a purpose - that of the betterment of humankind, and that is why Tikkun Olam is so important in our tradition...where is the need to "fix the world" if there is no purpose?
I truly feel that as Jews we are VIPs, not only in the sense that the Rabbi described, but also in the traditional meaning of the acronym...We are Important, because as a community we care...not just for ourselves, but for those around us. And I felt proud of being part of the Federation system, because our work embodies the collective purpose put into action by feeding the hungry, healing the sick and rescuing the imperiled. Over the decades, the Federation system played a central role in rescuing the survivors of the Holocaust, the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, the civilians besieged in Sarajevo during the Balkan wars, the Ethiopian Jews, and more; the system also was central in mounting the Free Soviet Jewry Campaign and in battling the effects of poverty in our own communities. The Federation system has been, and still is, the cement that brings together Jews from all walks of life and all denominations to do the right thing together, to rebuild the Jewish life decimated by the decades of Soviet rule but also to support every person. We see the collective in the individual, but also the individual in the collective because each one defines the other.
Just as individual and community are connected and define each other, Federation is defined by the Jewish organizations and by the Jews in the community, even those who have chosen not to affiliate. Federation is the tool for the community to act to ensure the future, not only of our own community but of that wonderful heritage that over the millennia has changed the world and continues to do so.
Yes - we are VIPs...let us live up to it !