What made you decide to embark on the tour?
Jeff: About a year ago, an idea hit me like a freight train: I realized that events far away affect us locally. There was so much hurting, isolation, fear, and division in America. And we decided it was time to invest in people.
How did you make the tour work safely amidst a pandemic?
Jeff: In January, we drove 12,000 miles around the United States, without going into a single building. We did everything via Zoom or outdoors. We mostly met with heads of congregations and organizations in faraway places. We also met with small United Ways and asked them what they needed. We spent a lot of time in Alabama, which I had never visited before, and then we went to the Texas and Mexico border.
Mindy: We chose the southern route thinking it would be warm – or at least warmer! But it was quite cold at times; we wrapped up in blankets and sat in garages with the doors open. We also discovered that so many people felt isolated during the pandemic, especially seniors and synagogue members who lived far away from their congregations. We mobilized volunteers to reach out to some of these homebound folks. And as we traveled, Jeff and I shared warm greetings from Temple Beth Hillel members back at home with our newfound friends.
What were the most memorable places, experiences, and people?
Mindy: One of the most memorable people I met was the president of a synagogue in Lake Charles, Louisiana. We met in January of 2021, just a few months after they were hit with their second hurricane. We had called him from the road to ask about internet connections there. And without even meeting us, he invited us to park in his yard — even though it was still practically in ruins from the hurricanes. Thanks to his hospitality, we were able to hook up to his internet and hold Shabbat services from his yard. We also got to tour the synagogue. We saw firsthand the incredible resilience of the small, yet mighty Jewish community.
How did the tour inspire you to make a difference?
Jeff: When we began our tour, the world seemed like a dark place – but we have hope. We believe we can make a difference by investing in people. So we added up the house, the retirement fund, the cars, everything. And we sold off about 15% of it. We decided to donate to [organizations] all over the country. And we found that it was not so much the amount of money we gave as the fact we reached out. If you give far away, it has tremendous benefits there and here.... We are all in this together.
Mindy: Our donations weren’t huge – but they touched people and energized them. It inspired us to share our call to action: “Give Locally Everywhere.” We hope more people will pick a place and make a small donation, because it causes a ripple effect.
Click here to read the full-length interview with Rabbi Jeff and Mindy Glickman.