18 December 2014
Earlier this week, a true Chanukah miracle took place. After five long years in a Cuban prison, Alan Gross was released and returned home where he reunited with his loving family, friends and community. We are grateful to President Obama and several members of Congress for working to secure Alan’s release and to the Vatican and Canadian government for the role they played to help Alan’s freedom. I am pleased to acknowledge the enduring commitment of Ron Halber, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council and his team of dedicated professionals and volunteers for ensuring that Alan’s plight remained a priority for our Jewish community for five years. When he returned on Wednesday, Alan said, “Today is the first day of Chanukah, and I guess it’s the best Chanukah I’ll be celebrating for a long time.” He then “made it his” by enjoying his first taste of freedom with his favorite meal: potato latkes with sour cream, popcorn and a corned beef sandwich on rye. Welcome Home Alan!
Here are three ways to Make It Yours this week:
- Read about Alan Gross’ long-awaited freedom after five years in a Cuban prison.
- Celebrate Chanukah at the JCCGW Menorah Lighting, JCCNV’s Light Up the Night Community Menorah Lighting or at Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington’s Chanukah Festival on Sunday, Dec 21. For more Chanukah celebrations around town visit jconnect.org/Chanukah.
- Whip up some scrumptious Chanukah dishes…with a twist. Check out the Jewish Food Experiences Top 10 Chanukah recipes from DC Foodies.
At a recent meeting of community leaders, I shared a story, told by Rabbi Nachman of Breslav in the late 1700s, about a king and his son. As the king was aging, he wanted to make sure his son was wise enough to be a leader. He showed his son a huge millstone that was used to make corn into grain and told him if he could lift the millstone and bring it to the attic, the kingship would be his.
Days and weeks went by. But the stone just sat there. The son looked at it with great sadness. He had no idea how to move it, let alone how to get it up to the attic. He finally confessed his inadequacy to his father, and the king knew that this son was not ready to be a leader. First of all, he couldn’t come up with a creative solution to a problem that was sitting right there in front of him. Secondly, he didn’t know how to bring other people into the solution. He thought that being a leader meant working alone.
The king took him aside and said, “Son, you could never move this by yourself. But you can also never lead by yourself. When you have a difficult challenge, you must break it into pieces and allow others to help you elevate those pieces so that something that seems like a problem becomes an opportunity to bring people together.”
A community and its challenges are certainly heavier than any stone and similarly, cannot be carried alone by any volunteer, donor or professional. We can, however, break the challenges into pieces, and by coming together, elevate our community to new heights. In the midst of our Chanukah celebrations and in the waning days of December, we are reminded of the joy of coming together as families and as a community, the importance of rededication and of course, the value of US tax laws!
In just 12 days, The Federation’s 2014 Annual Campaign comes to a close. If you have not done so, please click here to make your year-end and tax-deductible contribution and join with thousands of others who are elevating our community to new heights.
Speaking of community, this week’s parasha, Mikeitz, contains Pharaoh’s famous dream of seven fat cows and seven lean cows, which Joseph interprets and is subsequently appointed prime minister. Later in the portion, we learn that Joseph has two children and names them Manasseh and Ephraim.
Each week at the Shabbat table, I bless my son with the invocation, “May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.” (My daughters received a different blessing, asking that they be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah). We know little of Joseph’s sons, except that theirs were not typical Egyptian names.
Joseph was deeply assimilated into Egyptian life, yet chose to make a statement about the way in which he intended for his sons to be raised – in the traditions of Jewish heritage. For Jews living in America, the temptation to “join in” with the majority grows stronger with each succeeding generation. As a Federation, we are committed to opening gateways for all members of our community, including interfaith households, so that at critical transition points in their lives they can find relevance and connections to our synagogues, agencies, organizations and most importantly, the community.
Let us seek to emulate Ephraim and Menashe, and bring the beauty of Judaism to the lives of all our families.
Chag Chanukah Sameach!
Steven A. Rakitt, Chief Executive Officer