Gratitude in a Pandemic

Embracing Gratitude.
I was watching the TODAY show as I was having my 3rd cup of coffee and Savannah Guthrie noted that Thanksgiving was just one week away. I don’t know about all of you but I am once again struggling with celebrating a holiday during this crazy pandemic time just as when I faced Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur this past year. I look towards my all time favorite secular holiday, Thanksgiving, with a feeling of loss and sadness. For me, memories of holidays always involve the smells of certain foods cooking, and the excitement of setting the tables for family and friends. To shake off the feeling of dread and despair, I force myself to think of things to be grateful for. 
 
Yes, I believe we can all find gratitude in the unexpected victories and surprising moments of awe and appreciation—like the teamwork it took at the Federation to pull off many of our spectacular programs since we commenced our fiscal year in August. From fundraisers to book clubs to teacher in-service programs, I posted this note on my LinkedIn page following one of our events this past month.
 
No playing the victim. No excuses...How did we ensure one of our largest fundraisers was still successful during this pandemic? We came together to dream, vision and innovate...Silos broken down; creativity rewarded. And we made it happen. We turned fear into excitement…
 
You may have seen this post, or better yet, you may have been at that one particular event. I typically don’t spend must time on social media, but I felt moved to share my overflowing appreciation for those who invest so generously in the mission of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas—particularly during this pandemic.
 
Inspiring Appreciation.
I am exceedingly grateful for my entire Federation family - volunteers, donors and professionals alike. We have accomplished so much in the past nine months. We pushed and will continue to push our capacity to support our community partners who are addressing rapidly escalating needs. There has been no recoiling or retracting in the face of this unprecedented challenge. We have embraced it as a catalyst for collaboration—with countless stories of impact and lives changed.
 
Amplifying Connection.
The resilience of our community is astonishing. Though people complain of “Zoom fatigue,” we see record-breaking attendance and engagement at not only our Federation programs and activities, but also with our partner agencies, organizations and schools events.  Your community is dreaming, envisioning and innovating.
 
And our agencies are coming together, as well. The Federation is convening our community leaders in a game-changing scenario planning process, the first of its kind for any Federation in North America. It’s a safe space to listen, be present and be heard. Unlike traditional strategic planning, this process allows us to anticipate needs and concerns more effectively—moving from reactivity to proactivity. Our leaders are not retreating. Far from it. They are convening with a heightened sense of urgency to envision communal solutions to our most pressing challenges.
 
We are moving forward as a collective like never before and this crisis has created consensus. From the orthodox to the unaffiliated, we have set aside any differences or perceived barriers to pursue a common purpose. We are tackling the most complicated issues we’ve ever encountered, and we are doing it together. I guess you could say we’ve convened more tables than Nebraska Furniture Mart has in its inventory.
 
Rabbi Mendel Dubrawsky of Chabad of Dallas said this:
These meetings created a sense of much needed unity, allowing all of us to freely share ideas, concerns and offer guidance on how to respond to the fluid environment caused by COVID-19. Thanks to our Federation’s quick response with leadership to put together the Scenario Planning Team to help us respond to our community’s needs.
           
Maiya Chard Yaron of Texas Hillel said this:
Engaging in the Community Scenario Planning Process was a unique opportunity to both connect with colleagues and leaders from various segments of the Dallas Jewish Community and to articulate what values and vision we want to guide the future of our community. The frame gave enough structure to allow us to talk in frank terms about how we can emerge from the pandemic as a strong community that is meeting the needs of everyone. For Hillel, it helped us understand what our role is within the Dallas community, and to understand our voice in the multigenerational conversation in the Jewish community.
 
It’s not up to any one agency or organization. We are leaning on our respective strengths. That’s how we will ALL be Here For You. Here For Good. That’s the power of the collective, the resilience and the strength of living in a Jewish community like Dallas, Texas.
 
Striking a Match.
Honestly, I am shocked by the generosity and engagement of our donors in our campaign—the number of people standing with us and saying, “Hineni,” when they are needed most, the people who recognize that the Federation serves as an accelerant, igniting meaningful change. It’s a both/and formula that works, not an either/or.
 
And now through December 31, the formula is potent. Thanks to the Human Service Relief Matching Fund, all new and increased gifts to the Federation will be matched at 50%, and we’ve raised more than $200,000 to date. Our goal is $560,000 to qualify for the full Dallas match allocation. Help us get there. This is the time to leverage your impact. I say this as not only your President and CEO, but also as a donor. I increased my gift this year, too, because I am so thankful for what I have. If you are looking for a reason to be grateful, watch this moving video story of impact.
 

We were built for this—to lead in the bad times and the good by bringing us together. I am eternally grateful for the Federation mission to convene, support and secure a vibrant Jewish community— individually and collectively. Today, I am particularly grateful for a bittersweet convergence of events that COVID-19 has provided, the perfect moment in time to walk our talk in ways we never imagined possible.
 
Join us as we navigate our way through what’s next—together.
 
Shabbat Shalom,