Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cuban Jewish Vision

From my presentation today at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey to introduce my wonderful colleagues from Havana, Allie and Lulo, JDC-Cuba Representatives ....

My dear friends,

There I was, not five months ago, in the middle of Havana, Cuba, with an intrepid group of travelers from the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

People not so different from yourselves.
Several of whom are here with us today.

And, in addition to smoking some great cigars, drinking some fine rum, and visiting some amazing tourist sites … we saw a vision.
We saw a vision of what the Jewish World is going to look like.

So, let me explain.

I am the Director of Partnerships for the Joint – the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
For almost a hundred years we’ve worked all over the world, as a partner to your federation and to the American Jewish Community.

And we only do three things. Rescue, Relief and Renewal.

We work in 75 countries around the world, and Israel, to provide physical security for Jews in need;
to provide food, medicine and care for hundreds of thousands who depend on us every day;
and we work to rebuild Jewish life and community in places that were cut off from the world by Communism or neglect.
In Israel we partner with the Government and local leaders to strengthen and empower Israel’s most vulnerable – the elderly, the disabled, youth at risk, the difficult-to-employ, and the difficult-to-absorb.
And in some 35 countries we provide an American-Jewish and Israeli response to humanitarian crises and man-made disasters, with non-sectarian relief and rescue programs.

Rescue, Relief and Renewal.

And our real aim … is to work ourselves out of a job and go home.

Because at the end of the day, as those of you who have been on missions with us have seen, every single JDC program, in every country around the world, has a kill-switch.
A phase-down program, that allows us to pull out when the work is done. …

On our mission in Cuba, there was a fascinating conversation with a local Jewish leader.
Who said, you know, we don’t need the Joint’s help in getting out.
Which is true.
There are no exit restrictions on Jews anywhere in the world today.
They can all get out.

We don’t need your help in getting out, he said. We need your help in bringing in.
We need your help in building Jewish life here in Cuba.

And those of you who have been with us on missions know this.
We have lists. We have lists of all the dozens of programs and projects that the Joint runs, say, in Cuba.

And that list is growing smaller.

We don’t run the Sunday schools anymore.
We don’t run the Shabbat services and festivals anymore.
We don’t run the summer camps anymore.

They're all run by the community. We’ve phased out.
And we’ll continue to do this, restoring dignity and self-reliance to the Cuban Jewish community program by program. …
Like we do everywhere in the world, working ourselves out of a job.

And the reason we can do this – is you.

You who support our work through your Federation’s Annual Campaign, who share our values through your Federation, who believe in what we do and why we do it.

A commitment that we are all responsible one for another.

A commitment to repairing the world by aspiring to a higher standard of justice, of humanity, and of compassion.

And a commitment to providing dignity and hope for all who need us.

So, therefore:
Come with your Federation on missions
Introduce others to what we do
And support your Federation’s Annual Campaign today. With an increase.

Because we cannot do this work without you.
And more importantly, we should not do this work without you.

Because the work we do – together – is the articulation of the values that we share.

It is my great pleasure, therefore, to introduce to you my wonderful, dedicated colleagues, Luciano Jaimovich and Alejandra Kotliar, our JDC Representatives in Havana, and invite them to say a few words.

Thank you very much.

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