Howard County is consistently recognized as one of the best places to live. Good schools, clean parks and religious and cultural tolerance thrive among the residence of this diverse community. A Conservative synagogue, a Reconstructionist synagogue, two Reform synagogues, Chabad and even non-traditional/ unaffiliated synagogues flourish among the 20,000 Jewish residents of Howard County.
However, it takes resources — money and people — for the Jewish Federation of Howard County to effectively provide services to its constituents. As Howard Countians, and Americans in general, have become more successful, we sometimes forget that there are people in our community who are in need. The elderly, who cannot receive their basic necessities; the young, who may have parents who can’t afford to give them a Jewish education; and the infirm, who may not be able to fully work to support themselves, are examples of people who are helped by those who make “giving” a priority.
It wasn’t long ago that our grandparents and great-grandparents boarded ships with only the possessions that they could carry to come to America to start a new life. My grandparents, along with most of our ancestors, were helped by the organization that was the precursor of the Federation. It was one big family, each doing and giving what they could so members of the community could have a fresh start in this land of opportunity.
Our community came together again after World War II, helping the victims of the Holocaust put their broken lives back together. We saw the need to give to Israel, to help settle Jewish refugees from all over the world. We came together and responded to any crisis that befell our community.
To some degree, the Jewish community is in a crisis now, and we don’t even realize it. We don’t realize that more than half of Jewish Americans are unaffiliated with Jewish institutions. We don’t perform enough outreach to engage these unaffiliated Jews so that they will understand the beauty of our religion and the majesty of our culture, and thus decide to get and stay involved. We don’t realize the miracle of the State of Israel, coming together after 2,000 years of being dispersed across the ends of the earth, culminating with the murders of one third of our people during the Holocaust.
True appreciation of our peoplehood and community means responsibility. It means we leave no family behind. It means our actions and our deeds are in the furtherance of our community. It means that we don’t wring our hands and wish that our load was lightened, but rather that we broaden our shoulders to allow us to do more for our fellow man and fellow Jew.
By supporting the Jewish Federation of Howard County, one supports our local Jewish community, the State of Israel and Jews around the world. And this is what the philanthropy of the Federation is all about: one Jew asking another Jew to help a third Jew. I am asking you to consider being such a philanthropist.
Wishing you and your family a healthy and happy New Year!
Jason A. Shapiro is campaign chair for the Jewish Federation of Howard County.