Dear friends,

Israel celebrates its 72nd anniversary next week. The Federation is proud to join with communities across the world in a live, online celebration of Israel's accomplishments and its role in the security of the Jewish people and the identity of Jews everywhere. This community has a history of support dating back to the beginnings of the Zionist enterprise in the late 19th century.

Chaim Weizmann and Albert Einstein in Hartford_ 1921.
Chaim Weizmann and Albert Einstein in Hartford, 1921. From "Jewish Community of Hartford" by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Hartford, 2016.
In May 1921, Chaim Weizmann and Albert Einstein visited Hartford to generate support for the Jews under the British Mandate in Palestine and paraded through downtown Hartford with 500 cars and 15,000 spectators. In 1948, our Federation raised the equivalent of over $14,000,000 in today's dollars for the fledgling State of Israel as it fought its War of Independence.

In the ensuing decades, our community has been actively engaged in generating political and financial support for Israel and fostering deep connections between American Jews and Israelis. Through Federation missions, educational and advocacy programs, and Israeli Young Emissaries; through Birthright trips and study abroad programs supported by the Annual Campaign; through our partnership with the Afula-Gilboa region; through economic development exchanges and in so many other ways, Israel has indelibly impacted this community and vice versa.

On Israel's 50th anniversary, the preeminent American Jewish historian Jonathan Sarna described ten ways that Israel has "liberated American Jewry." Among them:
  • "Zionism made Jewish peoplehood - national Jewish consciousness - a central component of Jewish identity."
  • "Israel has served, in Solomon Schechter's words, 'as the great bulwark against assimilation.'"
  • "Israel has helped democratize the structure of the American Jewish community."
  • "Israel authenticated open and vigorous defense of Jewish rights."
  • "Israel transformed the Jewish self-image."
In many ways, the relationship between American Jews and Israel today is complex - with differences over religious pluralism and territorial compromise sometimes engendering deep divisions and concern amongst many in our community. As my friend Yossi Klein Halevi has written so eloquently, the worldviews of American and Israeli Jews increasingly diverge, particularly on core issues of security and identity.

And yet, for all of the challenges, Israel continues to be a vital source of inspiration, pride, strength, and identity. The video below best captures Israel's continued resonance and relevance for Jews around the world - especially in these challenging times.

Click this image for a video.
Click the image above to watch the video.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Yom Ha'Atzmaut Sameach (Happy Independence Day)!


David Waren
President and CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford

#JewishTogether: Community Stories of COVID-19 Response

Each Friday, we'll share an update from a local Jewish agency, school or synagogue about how they are making a difference during COVID-19. Submissions are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. To learn more, contact Allie Egan-Sherry at aegansherry@jewishhartford.org.

In our increasingly digital world, innovation is rapidly changing our day-to-day lives and we're constantly finding new ways to connect. With a push from these unforeseen circumstances, Jewish Family Services has grown our capacity to serve our community when and how we are needed most. We are adapting to necessary changes, learning the newest technologies, building resilience as a team, and transferring important skills to a digital landscape. JFS social workers will be operating JFS On Call, a free, confidential emotional support hotline open to the entire Greater Hartford Community. This is not a crisis line or a replacement for therapeutic telehealth appointments; this is an outlet for community members to express their worries, be heard, and gain support. To talk to the JFS team or to get more information, call 860.613.5429 on Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m. and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m
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COVID-19: How Federation Is Helping
  • In its first month, the Jewish Hartford Rapid Relief and Recovery Fund has received a total of $844,772 from 350 gifts. Established by the Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation, the Fund supports several of the initiatives listed below - including financial assistance, kosher food delivery, Dignity Pack delivery, and wellness checks and reassurance calls - as well as counseling services for people in crisis through our partners at Jewish Family Services. Contributions to the Fund are not intended to replace your regular support for our local Jewish organizations. We are tremendously grateful for any support you are able to provide. Please click here to donate.
  • Since the Fund's kosher food delivery program began 4 weeks ago, 125 households - including homebound seniors and Holocaust survivors - have received 310 bags of kosher groceries and 2,500 prepared kosher meals delivered directly to their homes. Deliveries are facilitated by lay and professional volunteers from the Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation, and Jewish Family Services. Next week's food delivery will take place on Thursday. Click here to request a kosher food delivery.
     
  • Individuals and families are applying to the Fund for emergency financial assistance to help them pay their bills. So far, the Fund has helped people like a local woman who lost her job and couldn't support herself and her elderly father, a young entrepreneur whose business was deemed non-essential, a woman who needed help to afford a Jewish burial for her mother, and a community member who needed help with medical expenses. Click here to apply for assistance.
     
  • The Fund is currently working with local Jewish agencies, schools, and synagogues to assess their needs and plan for emergency operating support. Assessments are due by May 5. To learn more, contact Laura Zimmerman at the Federation or Michael Elfenbaum at the Jewish Community Foundation. 

     
  • Almost 150 Dignity Packs of toiletries and menstrual hygiene products have been delivered to households in need across our region. Each contains a month's worth of soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and a toothbrush, as well as menstrual hygiene products upon request. Home delivery is made possible by your contributions to the Fund; the Dignity Packs are provided by Dignity GrowsTM, an initiative of Federation's Women of Impact. Click here to request a Dignity Pack delivery.
     
  • Dozens of homebound seniors are receiving weekly reassurance phone calls from volunteers to help them feel less isolated - and an additional 250 community members have received a phone call to make sure that they're okay. This volunteer effort is coordinated by Federation staff.
Stay (Virtually) Connected

Federation is pleased to present or co-sponsor the following upcoming virtual events. By the way, don't forget to check the  virtual community calendar for a wide variety of Jewish programs presented by local and national organizations.