If we have learned anything from the experience of the pandemic, it is that together, as a unified community, we can weather any crisis.
A year ago, we celebrated Rosh Hashanah in the midst of the global pandemic. For the first time, our seders were limited to immediate family members and we worshiped at services streamed on the internet.
Today, as we once again prepare for the High Holidays, we can be grateful that many aspects of our normal lives have returned. The COVID vaccine has made a tremendous, life-saving difference, though clearly the devastating impact of the virus is not yet over.
For many, life remains difficult and uncertain. The pandemic is still an ongoing public health threat, affecting our community in a variety of ways.
A dramatic shortage of workers has made it more difficult and expensive to deliver services to the thousands of individuals who depend on the support of our Jewish agencies. Significant mental health issues continue to be a challenge for youth in our community, requiring a variety of interventions to counter depression, anxiety and suicide. And our Jewish communities in Israel and elsewhere around the world have been impacted by the pandemic in similar ways to our local community.
Beyond this, antisemitism has risen over the past year, prompting a coordinated response to counter hateful and threatening rhetoric and to keep the community safe.
Despite these challenges, there is reason to be hopeful. If we have learned anything from the experience of the pandemic, it is that together, as a unified community, we can weather any crisis.
Throughout the pandemic, our communal leaders and institutions worked to make sure that our most vulnerable individuals were protected, providing millions of kosher meals to seniors and others in need, emergency aid to struggling families and protective gear for frontline workers. This was the most collaborative effort in recent times, uniting individuals from every corner of our community, every organization and stream of Judaism.
The Jewish Federation played a central role in this response, mobilizing $7.6 million dollars in critical funding to protect individuals and families as well as the Jewish organizations that are the heart and soul of Jewish life. Just as importantly, we continued to coordinate the response effort, working shoulder to shoulder with agencies, schools and congregations throughout Jewish Detroit on a daily basis. This work is far from over and will continue for as long as the needs exist.
Several years ago, we introduced a new theme for the Jewish Federation, a “tag line” to express the essence of our mission. Here for Good proclaims that Federation is an enduring entity whose purpose is to support, strengthen and advance our local and global Jewish community. We are here to take care of our most vulnerable individuals and to build a vibrant Jewish future for all.
Today, this theme has never been more relevant. Here for Good reflects not just the essence of the Federation, but also of our Jewish community itself. Thanks to the commitment of many individuals —including nearly 11,000 donors to our Annual Campaign — Jewish Detroit remains as vibrant and cohesive today as it ever has.
Even as we recognize the ongoing impact of the virus and other complex challenges, we will never lose our vitality, spirit and gratitude for the richness and depth of our Jewish heritage and culture as well as the strength of our community.
With that in mind, we want to offer a warm Shanah Tovah to our entire Jewish community. May this be a time of peace and prosperity for the Jewish people, and a year of meaning, growth and joy for all.
Matthew B. Lester is president, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Dennis S. Bernard is president, United Jewish Foundation. Steven Ingber is CEO, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.