Marsha’s Musings – Plenty or Everything – A World of Difference
Today would have been my Mom’s 97th birthday. Bubbe Leah as her 4 kids, 10 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren called her, passed away in 2014. She was our family matriarch who devoted herself to her family and community – she lived a modest life with very few frills. She always had a smile on her face and was ready to provide a snuggling hug and a warm kiss on the cheek to convey her love and affection.
A first generation American, my mom lived her life through daily acts of loving kindness – taking care of her parents as they aged; helping out those in need; rearing her children and their children with lots of chicken soup, homemade sugar cookies on Chanukah, tzimmes and honey cake on Rosh Hashanah, and of course roast chicken, challah and homemade applesauce every Friday night!
As I look back, I believe Mom lived her life with intentionality – seeking to do her part to make our world a better place. She found time to be the president of my day school’s PTA, our synagogue’s Ladies Auxiliary, volunteer in the shul gift shop, help out at the Purim carnival, bring food to ailing neighbors, work full time side by side with my Dad in their paint and wallpaper store, volunteer as a JFS Friendly Visitor when she retired, and float in the Jordan River at age 80 – never having learned to swim — with my three children when in Israel on a Family Mission.
Like Jacob, in this week’s Torah portion of Vayishlach, my mom understood that our most valuable and prized possessions will always be what money can never buy – our lives, our health, our families and how we give back to our community; making our world a better place.
The parsha states Jacob saw his brother, Esau, for the first time after many years of hiding from him. Jacob now wanted to give Esau some of his flocks as a peace offering, but Esau declined, saying: “I have plenty … let what you have remain yours. But Jacob said, …I have everything.”
Our sages explain there is a significant difference between what Esau meant when he said he has “plenty” and Jacob declaring that he has “everything”. Esau, described as a selfish person who cared only about his materialistic possessions, proclaimed that “I have plenty” because “plenty” is quantitative. His material possessions are what he saw as his net worth. If he ever lost a majority of his possessions, then he would no longer have plenty.
Jacob, however, had his entire family with him, and realized, “I have everything.” Jacob understood that our most valuable and prized possessions will always be what money can never buy and we should not take them for granted.
Instead of appreciating and loving the tremendous and endless amount of true wealth that constantly surrounds us, how often, our sages ask, do we choose to dwell on missed and lost opportunities and things we don’t have?
In honor of my Mom’s birthday, I invite you to join me in celebrating “everything” we have and how we can work together to perform good deeds and acts of loving kindness to recognize our parents, our children and build a stronger Jewish community.
Everyday, the impact of JEWISHcolorado is experienced by hundreds of thousands as a result of our collaborative work with human and social service agencies (JFS, JCC, Kavod, Shalom Park, JAFI, JDC) as well as Jewish educational institutions (think synagogues, day schools, Jewish Student Connection, BBYO, IST) in Colorado, Israel and around the Jewish world.
I am grateful to my Mom for the life lessons she showed me with her intentionality to make our world a better place and I am privileged to be part of our JEWISHcolorado Team which enables me to keep her legacy alive!
JEWISHcolorado Interim President & CEO
A great miracle happened in Jerusalem as the Maccabees liberated the Holy Temple. Every year on Hanukkah we light candles to honor the rededication of this sacred temple. On this Hanukkah, JEWISHcolorado celebrates our Colorado Jewish community. We revel in the dedication to collaboration and community service. We rejoice in the strong partnerships we have with you and our work together to make our community stronger. Let us continue to be a light unto the Jewish world by working towards a vibrant Jewish future.
Donor Spotlight: Hirsch L. Neustein
JEWISHcolorado’s donors are the key to community service delivery in Colorado, Israel, and around the world. The extraordinary individuals we highlight in this section make our community work successful. Thank you for your support!
What inspired you to get involved with JEWISHcolorado?
I moved to Denver in October 2016 from New York City, where I was involved with the local federation and AIPAC for eight years. I had been involved in Baltimore before that, so I naturally sought out JEWISHcolorado when I arrived. My first week here, I attended a YAD event and quickly made friends. That first touch with community inspired me to get involved. I’m also an associate in the real estate department of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, a law firm that strongly encourages both pro bono legal work and community involvement, which is unique in the legal community. Brownstein attorneys are involved with numerous charitable organizations that address social, religious, environmental, educational, cultural, and other charitable causes, including JEWISHcolorado. I’m constantly inspired by the great work that many of my colleagues do for these organizations and am grateful to work for a firm that shares my commitment to community involvement.
What does JEWISHcolorado mean to you?
A strong Jewish community is very important to me. Being new in town, I couldn’t think of a better way to meet like-minded people and become familiar with Denver’s many Jewish and charitable organizations than by connecting with JEWISHcolorado. I am very impressed with the demographic footprint the organization reaches. JEWISHcolorado and its partner organizations support people of all ages, backgrounds, and religious denominations. Also, while there is no shortage of worthy causes, I’m a firm believer that it is important for Jews to support Jewish causes—if we don’t, no one else will.
Please share an example or story that stands out as a point of pride in your giving to JEWISHcolorado, i.e. a program you support or an activity you are/were involved in
Just last month, I attended my first JEWISHcolorado Men’s Event. I helped recruit table captains and also hosted my own table. The event is a great example of the wide demographic footprint that JEWISHcolorado reaches. Attendees ranged in age from high school to people in their 80s and 90s, spanned the religious and political spectrum, and included Denver transplants from across the U.S. as well as several countries.
I am also a member of Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet (NYLC or Cabinet). In August I attended my first annual NYLC retreat/conference, with approximately 200 young Jewish leaders from across the US and Canada. Each member of Cabinet is required to make a meaningful annual gift to their local federation. We raised over $2 million! In addition to writing checks, many of my Cabinet colleagues are doing amazing things in their local communities and beyond, including an emergency relief fund through Amazon to help victims of the recent hurricanes. People could buy diapers, batteries, baby formula, canned food, etc. to be shipped to the Dallas and Palm Beach JCCs for delivery to Houston and Miami. Several truckloads of emergency supplies were delivered within just a day or two of the storm hitting. The story is a great example of the enormous impact individuals can make, and was very inspiring for me. I am honored and proud to be part of this group and look forward to increasing my involvement.
What issues or causes are you most passionate about?
Political activism and supporting Israel. In NYC I was involved in AIPAC young leadership and I’m hoping to start some young leadership programming here with AIPAC staff. I’m also passionate about Jewish education, including day school education, Hillel and summer camp. I have cousins at two of the local Jewish day schools, and I’m looking to get more involved. Growing up, I had more experience with the disciplinary aspects of day school administration than I care to admit, and I’m looking forward to learning more about other aspects of day school administration. I’m not sure yet in exactly what capacity I’ll get involved, so stay tuned.
What draws me to JEWISHcolorado is its commitment to all of these aspects of Jewish community service and more. It provides support and funding for Jewish summer camp, for Jewish day school education. It advocates for Israel through the excellent work of the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Israel Emissary (Shinshinim) program.
Why is philanthropy important to you?
I’m blessed to have been born in the United States to a loving, supportive, and generous family, to have had a strong Jewish education, and I don’t take that for granted. My grandparents have been major supporters, board members, and founders of a wide range of causes, and my parents have been involved on day school boards, Jewish Family Service, the local hospital, and more. They have all been great role models. I also attended Jewish day school through 12th grade, participated in Jewish youth groups, went to Jewish summer camps, etc., so the lessons I got at home were constantly reinforced in my educational and extracurricular activities.
I believe everyone has the responsibility to use their skills and resources to help others, in whatever way they are able. I’m honored to be able to give, whether by volunteering, representing a client on a pro bono basis, or writing a check. I certainly gain a lot from giving, too. In addition to the satisfaction of having done something good, by getting involved, I have had opportunities to develop and utilize skills that I don’t necessarily use on a daily basis.
Program Spotlight: Christmas Mitzvah Project
For over 20 years, Jews across Denver and Boulder rise early on Christmas morning to engage in a special and meaningful day of service. They serve meals at homeless shelters; staff hospital gift shops; visit patients and facilitate activities at nursing homes, hospices, and hospitals; care for animals at rescue facilities; and gather as families to make projects for various community service organizations. All of these efforts are designed to give regular service staff time off to spend with their families on Christmas Day as part of the JEWISHcolorado Christmas Mitzvah Project.
A program originally sponsored by the Synagogue Council of Greater Denver and then by ZIM Consulting, JEWISHcolorado has been organizing the program for the past three years. Last year over 325 people volunteered, spanning all ages and religious affiliations.
Jessica and Dan Pollyea of Denver and their three children have spent the last two Christmas mornings making fleece scarves for the homeless, decorating cookies for Denver firefighters, creating holiday cards for hospice patients, and playing games with nursing home residents.
“Christmas is a day that is extremely important to so many people. We want to help make it happy for as many people as possible,” Jessica said.
Kelli and Evan Pfaff, also of Denver, volunteered last year with their young children and said they plan to do so again this Christmas.
Last year, Kelli shares, she was making warm blankets for children at Children’s Hospital with her seven-year-old son, Levi.
Why are we making these blankets, mom? Levi asked.
“What makes you feel better when you are sick?” Kelli responded.
“Chicken soup and cuddling with you,” Levi said.
Kelli smiled, “Imagine if you were really sick and in the hospital because you needed to be with doctors all the time and couldn’t be at home.”
Levi looked sad and puzzled. “I hope that if one of these sick children gets one of our blankets that we made today with love and hope – maybe, just maybe, they will feel a little bit better.”
We continue making blankets together. “It’s nice to help people, isn’t it, mommy?”
Yes, it is.
Job Opening: Chief Executive Officer
JEWISHcolorado seeks a Chief Executive Officer with demonstrated experience in five critical areas: developing vision and strategies, community building, stewarding relationships with people of wealth and influence, a significant history of fundraising success, and excellent communication skills. The person must be conversant with a broad range of Jewish community issues, locally, nationally and internationally, and be familiar with the systems that address these concerns. The new CEO must have a personal passion for Jewish community, Israel, continuity and peoplehood, and be able to inspire that passion in others. As a senior community professional, s/he will work to foster dialogue and planning community-wide.CLICK HERE to learn more or to apply