From the Desk of Ralph Grunewald, Executive Director
Exactly one year ago, the Jewish Federation of Howard County announced a special fundraising campaign to assist the Jews of Uganda who, at the time, were suffering from severe malnutrition and dehydration. Within a matter of a few short weeks, we raised $20,608 from 144 donors, thus doubling our initial goal of $10,000.
This was a remarkable achievement and a heart-warming response to the very real life-threatening needs of our brothers and sisters in Uganda. The funds from our community and other Jewish communities provided much-needed food and water. One year later, the drought and famine have subsided, though the threat has not yet passed.
Over the past few weeks, the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the organization that distributed the funds from our community, dedicated a new gravity-fed water system in Nabugoya Village – home to the Abayudaya (“people of Judah”), the native community that chose Judaism and currently has 2,000+ members. Additional photographs of the water system appear below.
We could all justifiably sit back and say “dayenu” – we have done enough. We could be satisfied that our communal efforts helped bring clean drinking water to Nabugoya Village.
But we know that attitude is entirely antithetical to our Jewish heritage, which compels us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the young and the old among us, and to give tzedakah as a community. Indeed, the beautiful notion of kehila – community – has sustained the Jewish people for millennia and up to this day, whether it relates to Uganda or our own community in Howard County. We know that we are far stronger working together as a community than we are as individuals. We draw strength and power from our collective efforts locally and around the world.
I am often asked, “Where does my money go when I donate to Federation?” In fact, your funds support a myriad number of needs in our local Howard County neighborhoods and in Jewish neighborhoods across the globe. The power of giving through Federation is our ability to combine forces with hundreds of thousands of other Federation donors in order to make the biggest difference to the organizations we support.
The Jewish Federation of Howard County is proud that a full 20% of all the funds we raise are in turn transferred to three international partners – more than $150,000 yearly. These include not just the JDC, but also the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), and ORT. I ask you to click on the links in the preceding sentence and take a few moments to read the annual reports and strategic plans of these outstanding Jewish humanitarian organizations. I know you will find these documents to be enlightening and inspiring. The work of these agencies is sustaining and life-changing for the beneficiaries of our charitable donations.
I am also sometimes asked, “But doesn’t the money we send to Israel help the Israeli prime minister, and doesn’t that mean our funds support his policies?” The answer is “no” – unequivocally “no.” In fact, by reviewing the documents to which I’ve linked, you can read for yourself about the broad range of services and institutions that our funds help support.
Please read about JAFI’s work with new immigrants to Israel and the 220 shlichim that they help sponsor (including our own shaliach in Howard County). Read about JAFI’s support of Birthright Israel, the funding of Jewish camps and day schools in Europe, Asia, and Russia, and so much more – none of which has any connection whatsoever to Israel’s internal or external policies and politics.
Read about JDC’s inspiring and impactful work across the globe in Jewish communities like Ukraine, Hungary, Turkey, Russia, and Uganda, among others. And finally, learn about ORT’s remarkable work with education, training, and professional development across the world.
The impact we make locally and globally is why we do what we do, day-in and day-out. As the sages have taught us, kol Yisrael areivim, zeh b’zeh – all of the Jewish people are responsible one for another. This fundamental tenet of our faith underscores the very notion of Jewish communal responsibility.
Community is defined as group of people who share common attitudes, interests and goals. It means, not only are you and I responsible for people in need in our local Howard County community, but also for that Jewish child in Nabugoya Village who now has access to clean water. You made that possible. We made that possible.
Click here to read more about the new graviey-fed water system in Nabugoya Village, Uganda, made possible by your donation.