February 19, 2021

Today on the Hebrew calendar is the seventh of Adar, a date traditionally associated with Moses’ birth and death. Moses died alone in Moab, overlooking the Promised Land, and the Torah describes how G-d buried him. It has become a tradition on this day to honor those who care for the deceased as volunteers in Jewish burial societies, or chevrot kadisha.

According to Jewish law, caring for the dead is "the truest act of kindness," or chesed shel emet. In Greater Hartford there are dozens of unsung heroes who answer the call, sometimes with only a few hours’ notice, to prepare the deceased for burial. It is difficult work, physically and emotionally. During the pandemic, chevrot kadisha have continued to fulfill this ultimate mitzvah under careful new guidelines

Another facet of caring for the dead is maintaining our Jewish cemeteries. The Jewish Federation provides and cares for 30-plus historic, sacred burial grounds across our region that would be derelict without our support. Association of Jewish Cemeteries Director Lisa Vaeth has overseen this work for the last 18 of her 30 years of service.

The following story illustrates the quiet but profound impact Lisa and the Federation have had on thousands of families. At the beginning of the pandemic, she received a frantic call from an older man who had purchased a grave plot in the 1970s but couldn’t find the paperwork. He wanted to be sure that, if he died from COVID-19, his final resting place would be secure.

Lisa set to work immediately and realized that although his paperwork was on file, it did not designate a specific location. The gentleman asked Lisa if she would help him "pick out a spot." The next day, she personally went to the cemetery and FaceTimed with him, showing him a plot one row over from his parents. The man was thrilled and called Lisa again to thank her when he received the confirmation letter.

This isn’t the end of the story, however: Lisa had a sense that this gentleman was not able to get out very often and might need additional help. She gently asked if he would be interested in receiving kosher food deliveries through our joint COVID-19 relief program with the Jewish Community Foundation and Jewish Family Services. The man was stunned and grateful – and for weeks thereafter, he would call Lisa right after his food delivery to tell her exactly what was in the bag. Lisa provided not only professional service but also true kindness and companionship.

Chesed, or loving kindness, is not just a part of the truest act of kindness – it’s a value we seek to incorporate into everything we do at Federation. I’m grateful for your support and for dedicated colleagues like Lisa Vaeth.
Shabbat shalom!
David Waren
President & CEO
Federation Trains Community Leaders to Counter Active Security Threats
Image: Robert K. Yass, co-chair of Federation's new security initiative, addresses community leaders at a recent security training.
A strong Jewish community is a vibrant Jewish community – and that’s why your Federation is working with the nationwide Secure Community Network (SCN) to launch a cutting-edge security initiative later this spring. In preparation, last Monday over 70 leaders from local Jewish agencies, schools, and synagogues attended a joint Federation-SCN webinar on countering active security threats. They gained a better understanding of active threat incidents and learned how to prepare for active threat events; the three modes of action (RUN, HIDE, FIGHT); and how to respond when law enforcement arrives. “This training will enable members of our community to respond in a crisis and minimize harm,” said Robert K. Yass, who co-chairs Federation’s new security initiative along with Michael Cantor. “SCN provides the most well-informed guidance on threats posed and how we can best meet them,” added Cantor. Click here for the full story.
Above: Robert K. Yass, co-chair of Federation's new security initiative, addresses community leaders at a recent security training.
Reclaiming Zionism as a Progressive Cause
Image: Noted Israel advocate Zachary Schaffer shared strategies for discussing Israel with progressives during a leadership briefing last week.
Zionism is often misunderstood in progressive circles, and it has become increasingly challenging for those who love Israel to advocate on its behalf. One mission of Federation's Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is to enhance the understanding of Israel inside and outside the Jewish community - and to this end, the JCRC's Israel Task Force held a leadership briefing last week with noted Israel advocate Zachary Schaffer, executive director of the Council of Young Jewish Presidents. Schaffer shared perspectives and strategies for reclaiming Zionism as a progressive cause with leaders from across our Jewish community, and he defined some basic terms that advocates for Israel can leverage when speaking with critics of Israel. He also shared behavioral tips that encourage dialogue and help to illuminate points of agreement. “We can use what we learned from Zach’s presentation to better partner with the progressive community,” said Norm Sondheimer, chair of the JCRC’s Israel Task Force. “It's important that we understand their concerns and that they understand the need for a Jewish state.” Click here to read the full story. We also hope you'll join us for the JCRC's next Israel-related program: a free, community-wide webinar on the Israeli elections with Herb Keinon, a senior contributing editor and analyst at The Jerusalem Post, on Monday, February 22.
Above: Noted Israel advocate Zachary Schaffer shared strategies for discussing Israel with progressives during a leadership briefing last week.
Fighting for Equality for Ethiopian Israeli Jews
Image: Tebeka attorneys confer in an Israeli courtroom.
Your contributions to Federation’s Annual Campaign have an impact far beyond our region and even our nation. For example, they help to support equal treatment for Ethiopian Israeli Jews through our Israel & Overseas partner Tebeka, a legal aid society. Tebeka Executive Director Tomer Marsha shared one of the organization's recent successes in the Israeli Supreme Court: an appeal against discriminatory police identification practices. You can read the full account here, or click here to learn more about Tebeka’s social justice work.
Above: Tebeka attorneys confer in an Israeli courtroom. Image courtesy of Tebeka.