2018-07-04 / Voice at the Shore

It’s the Fourth, celebrate what’s to come

Executive Director Jewish Federation of Atlantic & Cape May Counties

For more than a century before the Declaration of Independence established the United States as a free and democratic republic, there was an organized Jewish community on these shores.

When the first Jews arrived in 1654 from the recently-overthrown Dutch colony in Recife, Brazil, they were not the first Jews to set foot on North American soil, but they were the first communal group, made up of men, women, and children, to do so. As the first American Jewish community, these few families were admitted and allowed to remain by Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant for a fee, and only on condition they remain financially self-sufficient.

While in Jewish tradition, the kuppah, or communal appeal, dates back millennia to Sinai, the first in America dates back to 1654. It began a now centuries old American Jewish tradition of self-sufficiency, of providing financial resources through an annual appeal, of ensuring services and programming to the Jewish community. This communal appeal was what gave life to Jewish community.

In 2018, our annual appeal is called “Chai HaKehilah” or Life of Community. This is no coincidence, but intentional.

It is time for each of us, young and old, those who traditionally support the annual appeal, and the vast majority who do not, to return to basics. It is time to remember from where we started, and time to honor a legacy that began Jewish life in this great country. Successful Jewish communities, in America and around the world, have broad participation in the annual appeal. Those where there is no vigorous communal appeal disappear. No matter how large a Jewish community may be, and we are not a small one, there is no life of community, no Jewish life, unless the local Jewish population supports it.

When gifts to the annual appeal remain flat from year to year, or donors increasingly lend support to causes outside of the Jewish community, or stop giving altogether, then Jewish life declines, as does the ability of the Jewish community to respond to crises, challenges, and growing need. Community dies.

As we celebrate the birth of our nation this holiday, let us all (or more of us!) also celebrate the Jewish community that preceded it. Let us each celebrate our Jewish community, honor a unique Jewish and American tradition of giving, and give life to community.

If you have already made a gift for 2018, thank you! If you have not, you should have, or will soon, receive a special 4th of July request for support to Campaign 2018. If you do not receive a request in the mail, please pledge online at www.jewishbytheshore.org – or call us at (609) 822-4404. Give life to your Jewish community by pledging generously. We need you! Your Jewish community needs you! The Jewish People needs you!

A safe and joyous 4th of July holiday to all who are Jewish by the shore! 

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