Reflections on What Charlottesville Means to me: Thoughts From an Executive Director of a Jewish Nonprofit

I remember when I got the job. The country was in flux, a new President was being sworn in, and there was fear bubbling to the surface in many corners of the Jewish community as to what this new leadership would mean. Many, including myself, wanted to hope for the best, yet feared the worst – hoping that our concerns would be proven wrong.

The organization I have the honor of serving as Executive Director for – NECHAMA – Jewish Response to Disaster – is a domestic disaster relief organization. Rooted in the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam (“repairing the world through acts of kindness”) NECHAMA offers help to all people affected by disaster on the basis of need regardless of religious affiliation – and more often than not we find ourselves in communities with little to no Jewish population, interacting with neighbors who have often not met or interacted with a Jew before in a meaningful way.

This is a tremendous honor, to be the face of the Jewish community in these moments, and an equally tremendous responsibility.

At this time in our country’s history, marked by the darkness of neo-Nazis and white supremacists walking unabashed and unafraid to show their faces through the streets of American cities, I find comfort in the thanks and praise of those whom my organization serves – survivors whose lives we change through acts of kindness and compassion.

I find comfort in the dedication of our staff and legion of volunteers who answer our call to service.

I find hope in our partners of all faiths who stand by our side every time we deploy.

I find strength in knowing that we continue to show the true face of Judaism, entering communities regardless of religion, assisting those in the greatest need, and persisting in our mission of Tikkun Olam.

At a time when it would be so easy to pull back from the world in fear, we choose to continue to push forward, now more than ever. Retrenching in our mission, refocusing on those we serve, reimagining how we can continue to changes lives, rebuild communities, and continue to show our neighbors the spirit and humanity of the Jewish people.

At a time when fear and despair would be the easy choice, I choose to join my staff, my Board, and our volunteers in choosing hope, compassion, and comfort in focusing on our mission of repairing the world through acts of kindness.

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