It’s time for my yearly love letter about the Jewish Federation of Omaha Annual Campaign. I’m not going to be shy about it: everyone should be excited to be part of the Campaign—and I’m not saying that just because I really like all the lay leaders who are involved (although, if you could see the sheer amount of work they are doing, you’d be impressed too).
Sometimes we kvetch. There are many requests for donations. Synagogues, your kids’ and grandkids’ schools and the various Jewish and non-Jewish organizations that somehow added you to their mailing list all want something. It never ends. Let’s acknowledge, for just a moment, that being an active member of our community means a steady stream of pledge cards someone somewhere wants you to fill out.
What if we looked at it in a different way? What if, rather than seeing this as a burden, we approach this with gratitude? What if we see the opportunities to do good, to make this world a little better, help others here and abroad and make ourselves happier in the process?
My oldest child has figured out in recent years that giving presents to others is more gratifying than receiving them. It’s been a fun development to watch; it never ceases to amaze me how teenagers and young adults make these jumps in their thought processes. She’s right, of course; at the same time, the very reason it is more fun to give is because you get other, less tangible, gifts in return. A gift is really a symbol of the underlying relationship.
Giving makes us feel good about ourselves. It allows us to take pride in communal accomplishments. It reaffirms that we are all part of something; that we continue to build a successful community only when we do it together. That does not mean we all have to fork over thousands of dollars, although I know some of you do. When we all give what we can, regardless of the dollar figure, this world we’ve built will continue to thrive.
By now we are all tired of hearing how tough life has been since the start of the pandemic. However, tired or not, we are probably stuck having to acknowledge the collective trauma COVID-19 has caused. We’re not out of it yet, we don’t know if we’ll ever be, and we will be mopping up the hurt for years to come. There is a lot to unpack. And it’s funny, how when we are at our most miserable, doing something nice for someone else helps. Kindness can make us push through, force us to tackle our day and keep us upright. Buy someone flowers at random. Send a text. Bake a cake and drop a piece of it at a neighbor’s house. And yes, sometimes we write a check. Remember when someone close to you loses a loved one, and you don’t know what to say or how to help them? We check the obit and write those memorial checks, because it’s something we can do. And oftentimes it does make us feel better.
There hasn’t been much positivity over the past year and a half. But giving to the Annual Campaign, for me, makes things better. Because it’s not about the money. For me, it’s about this community. I’ve found a home here, a place where I know I belong. A home that has warmth, friends, great schools, welcoming synagogues, robust programming and the best colleagues in the world. I will never take that for granted. I arrived in 1995 with one suitcase and had to start from scratch, building a life, building my friend circle. I remember going to Temple and recognizing no one. Nowadays, I don’t have that problem. I know you; I know your name and your face. I know whom you are related to, I may even know what car you drive and your favorite food. I got lucky and became part of a very strong community.
And: I get to help, in my own small way, to keep it going. If that isn’t a privilege, I don’t know what is.
I know you love this community too. Please join the rest of us in pledging to the 2022 Annual Campaign when that phone call comes.