September 23, 2009

Reflections on the Past and Looking to the Future

A Rosh Hashana message from Alan Gill, Executive Director of International Relations


JDC turned 95 years old this past Monday. I was in NY that day and when I came to the office , I stood in our lobby and took a longer look than usual at the portrait of JDC's founders. Of course, I read once again the famous cablegram from Henry Morgenthau to Jacob Schiff --the plea for emergency assistance for the suffering Jews of Palestine. As always, I felt that surge of pride of being associated with the mission and history of JDC.

As Rosh Hashana nears, Jews throughout the world are mustering the courage to face our innermost selves during these days of introspection and awe. We will examine our actions of this past year, and we will commit to do the necessary repair work in order to bring ourselves to new levels of humility, inner strength and righteousness during the coming year.

We who have been handed down the privelege of stewardship of JDC's mission and vitality have, perhaps, a special sense of responsibility during these coming days of reflection. To be 95 years old and to have helped millions of Jews in need in 85 countries; to have helped Israel during its rebirth to statehood while continuing to do our part today in its efforts to be "A Light Among Nations"; to have aided our brethren who suffered under communist regimes to reclaim their Jewish identities while providing life-sustaining care to those most needy among them....these achievements are truly awesome in their own right.

Yet, in this coming week of introspection and judgement, it is upon us whom the Jews of the world depend to ask ourselves, "How will we be judged at this time next year?" And we will specifically ask ourselves if we are up to the challenge of shepherding JDC through the most challenging economic times in our 95 year history.

There are too many stacks of documents in our archives that speak all too painfully of those periods when JDC was able to do only so much for our People in peril. We could only rescue so many Jews of Europe from the clutches of the Nazis. We could only do so much for our brethren in the Soviet Union until the Iron Curtain fell. Despite doing all that they could, I imagine that those who were responsible for JDC during those times had the most trying of High Holidays. Knowing that Jews were suffering and in utter danger and that JDC could only do so much... how could they not have felt a sense of collective responsibility and cry during their prayers, "Ashamnu!"

Today's challenges might pale in severity to those of our forebearers, yet they carry grave consequenes all the same. During our meetings next month, the Board will be faced with the most trying budget decisions in recent history. However, as challenging as these times may be, they are not political in nature. For unlike in past generations, we have the unprecedented opportunity to reach any Jew in need, in any corner of the globe. All that we lack are the necessary resources to do what JDC has done so nobly throughout its rich history. And this is surely what will be on my mind when the Shofar sounds Sunday morning.

Warmest wishes to you and your loved ones for a Shana Tova.


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