This morning, I was waiting in line at Starbucks. After I ordered my soy matcha green tea latte, I noticed a woman trying to get my attention. She looked familiar, and I decided to walk over to her. As part of my work, I am privileged to meet hundreds of community members at numerous events throughout the year, in addition to spontaneous run-ins throughout Los Angeles. No matter the location, touching lives and building friendships is rooted in the Federation’s mission. This is what makes our community a community — and I never take for granted the generosity and deeply held interest and commitment our supporters have for the impactful work of the Federation.
As I approached her, she took a deep breath. “I’m so anxious,” she said.
I asked her, “Why?” “Everything,” she responded. “I feel very unsettled about the election, terrorism, really big things and really personal things. It seems like the list continues to get longer every day, with new issues and new challenges. My daughter is starting college and my son is starting high school. Where is the Federation?”
I pulled out a chair for her and we both sat down. This is what I told her:
“We are all feeling a little anxious. We understand that, and these daily concerns and feelings impact our priorities and inform our work.
“The Federation is everywhere — often you don’t hear about our work or presence in addressing an issue. This is intentional, because publicizing some of our work may lessen its effectiveness.
“In a world where terror is a reality, we all may feel less safe. But please know that our Federation has made you and your family’s safety a top priority. Our presence can be felt in every Jewish school and synagogue in Los Angeles.
“We are on all eight of our local Los Angeles College campuses, working with our partners to make sure every Jewish student has the opportunity to engage in a meaningful Jewish journey. We have also dedicated tremendous resources to help students express their commitment to Israel and combat the BDS movement. We are working closely with campus leadership and engaging with students on a multitude of levels and topics, to meet them where their Jewish identities lie. We have learned through our work that Jewish students want to connect with our culture and religion in a variety of ways, and we are here to help them make those connections on campus and beyond. We have almost doubled the number of our college-aged students who go to Israel on Federation partnered trips. Your daughter will have a great college experience here in Los Angeles.
“Your son goes to one of our community’s Jewish high schools. His high school is safe and our Federation will touch his life every day. Many of his classmates are able to attend schools like this one because of our support for families struggling to afford a Jewish education. In a few years, his education will be enriched when he participates in our Tel Aviv/Los Angeles School Twinning program, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. This program will allow him to spend time and study in Tel Aviv, deepening his connection with Israel and our extended Israeli family. Your family’s life will be forever changed when his “twinned” Israeli friend comes and stays in your home. Hebrew and English will be intertwined as these lifelong friendships between your family and your twinning family are created and, on a larger level, between Los Angeles and Tel Aviv.
“At the Federation, when we say ‘touching every Jewish life in Los Angeles, Israel and the world — starting with yours’, we truly mean it.”
The barista called my name and we both stood up. She thanked me and gave me a big hug. As I turned away, she smiled and said, “What about the election?”
“Some things are just too challenging,” I said. “Even for us.”
President & CEO