How Shavuot and JFS (Jewish Family Services) are Connected
Passover is behind us and the count-up (Omer) to Shavuot has begun. Shavuot commemorates the day that we experienced Hashem’s mass revelation and willingly accepted the Torah. With the declaration of “Na’aseh V’nishmah”- “We will do and we will listen” – we formally gave our pledge of allegiance to Hashem and His Torah. On Shavuot we officially became the nation of Israel and would soon accept the principle of “kol yisrael araivim zeh bazeh”- we are all responsible for each other.
As the Director of Jewish Family Services (JFS), I, like my predecessors, directed and informed by our tradition and heritage, do the utmost to emulate the mandates of collective responsibility, coupled with the mitzvah of “v’ahavta l’rai’echa kamocha”- treat (love) your friend as you treat yourself and with the belief that we are created “b’tzlem Hashem” - in the image of Hashem. We are dedicated to taking care of our extended family, whether with lifestyle coaching, providing transportation, participation in our virtual food pantry program, etc.
I have written and spoken about our Virtual Pantry program many times. I believe this program truly fulfills the dictum of communal responsibility, treating people as we would want to be treated, and respecting and recognizing that we are all created in Hashem’s image. The way the Pantry works is that the eligible client will receive gift cards from various stores of their choosing and are able to buy what they need/want.
When a client needs transportation to a doctor’s appointment, shopping, etc., we do our best to provide these services, either with our volunteer drivers or staff. And while it may be difficult for some to request help, we are here for you, just as I would hope that you are there for me.
Yet another program that encompasses many of the mitzvot listed above is visiting people at their homes or in various nursing facilities. While the residents or homebound seniors feel the joy of knowing they are not forgotten, the visitor is gifted with hearing stories and history that the seniors have to share with others. As a person who studies and teaches history, I feel enriched by hearing the firsthand experiences of historical moments being brought to life. I truly believe I get more from my visits than my clients, and I am always energized after my visits.
Many times, I am asked to describe what JFS does. After I do, the regular response that I get is, “Oh, so you’re involved in chessed - acts of kindness - all day. The first time I heard that spin on my work I realized that they were correct. The very essence of JFS is to fulfill the Mishna in Pirkei Avot (1:17) which states “While study of the Torah is important, action is the main thing.”
Finally, I would like to thank everyone who participated, donated, and made our Passover appeal a success and continually allows us to operate. It is heartwarming to see the generosity which is constantly shown.
Rabbi Fred Nebel
Jewish Family Services Director