Arnold D. Samlan
Jewish Educational Leader, South Florida

Hug a Jewish communal professional this week

We’re tired. And yet also energized. This is what it feels like to work in the American Jewish community today.

I’m not kvetching. Lord knows, what we who work in the Jewish community do is nowhere near putting our lives on the line the way that our Israel brothers and sisters (including many Israelis who are not Jewish) are doing today to defend Israel, and by extension, to defend all Jews.

But yes, this is exhausting. For rabbis, cantors, Jewish early childhood teachers, Jewish day school staff, synagogue-based teachers, Federation professionals, Israel organization professionals, JCC staff, support staff in every Jewish and Israel-facing organization, etc, etc.

Whether you’re leading a congregation or leading Jewish yoga classes; whether you’re Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or other religion, or no religion; regardless of your race or ethnicity. If you’re working in a Jewish/Israel-facing organization, you’re part of the mishpacha – family. And we’re all tired, while also being energized, knowing that it might be davka (can’t be translated) for a time like this that we have been called to serve (Book of Esther: 4:14 “perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis”).

The tiredness is cumulative for many of us. Many of us have served the Jewish community through the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas murders, the Tree of Life massacre, the COVID pandemic, the invasion of Ukraine and need to provide for Jews there and in the U.S., and now this war. We’re working crazy hours to raise funds and bring together the community on behalf of Israel and those being held captive. And juggling the very full-time work we had before the Hamas terrorist attacks. And we’re supporting a community that wants to do something or everything, and let’s us know that as much as we do, it will never be enough (and they’re not wrong).

Disclosure: This is not self-serving. It is NOT about me. I’m getting the support I need from the wonderful organization I work. This is about my fellow staff in Jewish & Israel organizations. None of us signed up for what the last several years has thrown at us. We weren’t equipped to address mass murders at public schools that happened to have very significant Jewish populations and victims. Most, like myself, missed the class on how to deal with pandemics. Few of us were grounded in expertise in Jewish community security. And very few of us were in the field the last time Israel was in this level of conflict.

Oh, and I’m not belittling the tremendous anxiety that the vast majority of American Jews are experiencing. The difference is, that we professionals are now on call 24/6 – 24/7 (I’ve modified my Shabbat somewhat while we respond to threats to life). And we should (and are) be reaching out to support all Jews in the community.

What I’m suggesting is: Show some special love for those you know who are working, in any capacity, in a Jewish or Israel organization. Give them a little hug (same gender only if they’re Orthodox), buy them a latte, send them chicken soup. Remind them that you know that they are working on YOUR behalf and that you value that.

Praying for the Israel, her people, the hostages, and the IDF. And honored to work on behalf of the Jewish people and Israel. And hopeful that, in the words of the Yehoram Gaon song from the days of the Yom Kippur War “I promise you – my little girl, That this will be the last war.”

About the Author
Rabbi Arnie Samlan, Chief Jewish Education Officer of the Jewish Federation Broward County, Florida, Is a rabbi and Jewish educator whose work has impacted Jewish learners, community leaders and professionals across North America. All blog posts are his personal opinions and are not meant to reflect viewpoints of the Jewish Federation.