I have the honor of serving as a board member of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), one of our two overseas partner agencies. The Jewish Agency is more than an institution that handles aliyah (immigration) and klitah (absorption) of new immigrants from countries around the world (from places like Ukraine, Argentina and Ethiopia). It is more than the backbone that runs MASA (long term programs in Israel for our young people from America and around the world). It is the platform that brings together Israeli and worldwide Jewry to work together on global Jewish issues. It was extraordinary to be on a JAFI Board Zoom call this week with fellow board members from Australia, Peru, Los Angeles, London, South Africa, Mexico, Italy, the United Kingdom, and so many other places around the world. We participated in a virtual tour of some of the programs we help to support through the Jewish Agency, and it was extraordinarily powerful.
That meeting took place just two days before the 17th of Tammuz, the day the siege on Jerusalem by the Romans began in the 70 C.E. ultimately resulting in the destruction of the First Temple and the greater dispersion of the Jewish people from the land of Israel. While there are more Jews living in Israel today than any other place on earth (a true modern miracle), we are still a people scattered around the globe. And while we all live in Pittsburgh and are deeply committed to this local community and its members, especially in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we are also connected with a sense of responsibility to Jews everywhere. It is why our Federation not only supports our local institutions, we also support agencies like the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Ba Zeh. All Israel is Responsible One for the Other.
The juxtaposition this week of the observance of the 17th of Tammuz which, as I stated above, marks the beginning of the massive scattering of Jews geographically, and being on a Zoom call with Jews around the world shows that neither geography nor pandemic is a barrier to keeping us connected and caring for each other.
Consider our own Pittsburgh Jewish community right now, geographically apart and yet united.
Shabbat Shalom. Wear your mask.