A Time to Come Together

I am not a big fan of winter. The days are short, the temperature is low and it feels like everyone hibernates a bit so we don’t see as many people in social settings.

I am a people person. I draw energy from being around others. Helping to create community has always been a big part of my life. For some reason, however, winter appears to be a time when those communities seem to slow down a bit. In addition to shortened hours of sunlight, a slowdown in our social interactions likely plays a role in what is referred to as ‘seasonal affective disorder.’ While sunlight—or the lack thereof—may be at the heart of this phenomenon, I believe the slowdown in socialization impacts our emotional and mental well being. 

Studies show that volunteerism and charitable giving are associated with better health, both physical and mental. People who volunteer and engage with non-profit organizations live longer and more productive lives. So, for those who are starting to experience the winter blues, we’re here to say we need you and we want you. Our Jewish community—our Federation and Foundation, our agencies and synagogues—have so many great ideas and, more often than not, the only thing holding us back is a shortage of volunteers and/or funds. 

So, this winter when you’re stuck inside, consider reaching out to any of our community organizations to offer your help. Not only will you be performing a mitzvah by helping those in need, you will also help yourself in ways that may not be readily apparent. 

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not make a pitch for our Annual Campaign. 

Over the years, the number one question asked by those who don’t give is ‘why should I give.’ There are so many valid answers to that question, but the one concept I always come back to is this: Because giving to Federation helps Jewish communities here at home, in Israel and around the world. 

To be sure, Jewish communities the world over have created a multitude of organizations that work day in and day out to help repair the world. They are all worthwhile and I myself would love to lend my support to them all. But it is simply not feasible to identify and contribute to each one. On the other hand, the good work of our Federation helps not just the New Haven community but communities throughout the world. And so, for example, through Federation I have had the opportunity to meet with an agency in Ukraine that helps provide food and medicine to elderly, often homebound, Jews. Through Federation, I have spoken with Ethiopian Jewish children who benefit from educational programs and programs that lift them out of poverty. 

All of this and so much more is made possible by my contribution to the Annual Campaign. And that is why I give. Because Federation does it all. Because one donation has so very many beneficiaries. 

So as the year 2022 begins, I ask that you consider two things: First, we need you, our community needs you. Make some time to volunteer. Don’t wait for someone to call you, call your synagogue, call JFS, call the Towers, call Federation. Second, make your annual campaign pledge today. 

Don’t wait for a call from us. Go online to make a pledge or just send in a check. The strength of our Jewish community lies in the collective work and financial support of each and every one of us. 

I wish you all a year filled with health and happiness.

Dr. Steven Fleischman President, Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven