The Papernick Family Foundation, in partnership with our Federation, funds the One Happy Camper program providing incentive grants to first time campers to attend the Jewish overnight camp of their choice, and Emma Kaufmann Camp (EKC) is the largest repository of Pittsburgh campers taking advantage of this program. I traveled to EKC on Tuesday with Brian Schreiber. Because of COVID, this was my first visit in several years. Many of you know how much my own Jewish overnight camping experience impacted me and influenced my life choices, how it helped me focus my vision for the Jewish community (it also provided me with a wife). What I had not realized was how much I needed to reJEWvenate myself by experiencing the power of Jewish overnight camping.
This brief visit to EKC provided that needed boost. As I toured the beautiful property, I could see signage with Hebrew words, the names of buildings and Jewish values. At lunch, I heard the campers sing “Hamotzi” before the meal and the “Birkat Hamazon” at its conclusion, doing both with Ruach (spirit). Camp staff successfully wove Jewish values and culture seamlessly into the regular daytime activities subtly reinforcing Jewish identity. It was just the sort of adrenaline rush I needed.
Coincidentally, while walking around EKC, my email started to light up; our staff and campaign leadership were sending each other congratulatory emails. Our Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s 2022 Community Campaign crossed $14 million. That is the largest campaign in our history and represents more than a $330,000 increase over the prior year! It’s quite an accomplishment (which of course could not have been achieved without our amazing campaign leadership and staff—and I extend to them my sincere thanks). Since Tuesday, I’ve been asked why I think the campaign grew by so much and my unscientific answer is that more people, both donors and previous non-donors, have seen the direct impact of Federation’s work in the most vivid way these past few years. Our efforts during COVID, our sustained focus on security, our response after October 27, 2018 and so much more has demonstrated how critical it is to have a strong Jewish Federation.
I’m incredibly proud of our fundraising result for the campaign and equally pleased that our Foundation added over $23 million to our corpus, one of our most successful years. And, yes, our role in the “big” issues has helped many realize the importance of our Federation, but we must remember the more “everyday” reasons why we raise these dollars. My day at EKC and its support for Jewish continuity served as a partial reminder. Last week, I toured another agency dedicated to Jewish continuity, Hillel Academy, to see its plans to modernize and expand the school facility for the growing student body. Additionally, what many of us saw in Israel during the MEGA MISSION, programs supporting Ukraine refugees, new immigrants from Ethiopia, shared society, seniors, and children and adults with special needs, was also made possible by these dollars. (As a side note, we just received a video capturing a MEGA MISSION visit at United Hatzalah where we dedicated an emergency e-bike that will be able to quickly respond to any type of medical emergency in our region of Karmiel and Misgav. I invite you to see what you made possible in the video below. These reasons and so many more are why we strive to raise more every year.
Tisha B’Av falls next Saturday night and Sunday. It is one of the saddest days on the Jewish calendar marking the destruction of both the First and Second Temples along with many other tragedies of the Jewish people. The reason given by the Rabbis for the destruction of the Temple was Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred between Jews. As we are all too aware, we live in a time of hyper partisanship and polarization, some of the raw ingredients that can lead to Sinat Chinam. It is the job of our Federation to help our community come together no matter the climate. In fact, our Federation mission statement is that we “Cultivate Resources, Connect People and Collaborate Across the Jewish Community to Live and Fulfill Jewish Values”. My experiences this week highlight how we do all of this ACROSS THE JEWISH COMMUNITY. Let’s continue to work hard together to bridge the divides and make our Pittsburgh Jewish community the place we aspire for it to become.
Thank you for making so much good possible.