Something to Be Grateful For

December 22, 2016
By Joel ben Izzy

Joel ben Izzy is Vice President of JFCS East Bay’s Board of Directors.

I awoke on the Wednesday morning after the presidential election in a state of shock. At that point, I couldn’t begin to process the results. While I do not speak politically on behalf of JFCS East Bay, there is no denying that many of the President-elect’s behaviors, promises, and proposed policies will directly impact those we serve, particularly immigrants, refugees, and Muslims, with troubling implications for people of color and women. Our Jewish values lead us to protect these vulnerable members of our society and JFCS East Bay will stand by them in the coming months and years.

My interest now is in finding light within the fears and concerns that the election has brought. Thus, I find my mind turning back not to that post-election Wednesday, but to the next day, Thursday.

On that day, I got to see JFCS East Bay’s values in action at an all-staff meeting. When possible, board members are encouraged to attend these meetings. This one took place at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, and offered a chance for staff to talk about how the election had already begun to affect them, their families, and their clients.

As staff shared their stories, told their fears, and described their struggles, I was stunned. I realized that I had spent far too many hours prior to that meeting staring at polls, numbers, and maps in red and blue, fearing that what I was seeing was the playing out of the worst impulses of humanity. As I listened to the compassion with which staff spoke, and heard of their deep and genuine commitment to their clients and one another, I was deeply moved by the respect displayed in this truly diverse and loving group. What I was seeing at that staff meeting, I realized, was the very best of humanity.

With that, I would like to express my gratitude to you, our staff. You have given me something to hold onto this holiday season, that will carry me through Chanukah and into the year ahead. And while I merely glimpsed some of that light at that meeting, it gave me a sense of what you give to those you serve directly. I thank you for your work, and for the chance to be part of an organization that will serve as the perfect antidote to the poisoned rhetoric of our troubled times.

So here’s my blessing to you: May the light you so generously give to others be reflected right back at you.