As we rely on each other, hope will not be lost!

As Passover approaches, our American Jewish community takes stock in our religious freedoms, which allow us to celebrate our holidays and live our lives free from ridicule and judgement. However, the current state of affairs may give us pause and reason to be concerned as we watch the news, protect our children on college campuses, and hear the conversations happening across high schools in America. Once again, we are confronted with the feeling of being cast out or misunderstood. For some of us, this may be a new feeling, but for many others, this is a road we have walked down before. The fear of rising antisemitism and Jew hatred causes anxiety and depression that can be overwhelming but woefully understated.

In these difficult and uncertain times, it is important to rely on each other. When we live our lives from a strength-based perspective, we learn that relying on our communities and the allies we have created is the only way to gather the strength necessary to persevere through dark and difficult times.

Our Southern New Jersey community is blessed with an amazing coalition of organizations, including Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, Jewish Community Relations Council, Katz JCC, and our wonderful synagogues–to name just a few. We are also blessed to have supportive local government, which understands the critical importance of advocating for the safety, security, and well-being of our Jewish community.

At the Passover Seder, we often sing “Dayenu,” reciting “it is enough” over and over. The meaning behind this song is to thank G-d for liberating us from the bonds of slavery. And while we may want to celebrate our freedom, this year, Passover feels very different. We are still processing the trauma we have felt since October 7, 2023. Six months later, we still mourn the loss of feeling safe in our communities, universities, and schools. We pray that the war in Israel will come to an end with the return of all of our hostages and the dismantling of Hamas, a terrorist organization that has repeatedly called for the destruction of our people and our homeland. This year, we may feel that we are truly living the stories and the legacy that have been handed down l’dor va dor–from generation to generation.

I am so proud that Jewish Family & Children’s Service has been a vital part of our Southern New Jersey community for almost 80 years! This agency has continually grown and adapted along with the ever-changing needs of our community. I find so much comfort in the Kehillah (community) and Chevra (friends) we have nurtured and sustained–folks of every age, religious tradition, and economic background.

If you are struggling this holiday season, I want you to know that you are not alone. Should you need counseling or other support throughout these difficult and uncertain times, JFCS is here for you. You are not alone. I implore you to reach out to us at (856) 424-1333.

When we sit around the Seder table this year, we will reflect upon our history. We will take stock of our freedoms and pray for peace and acceptance once again. We will remember that we have fought off the enemies of the past. From Pharaoh to Stalin to Hitler, we have persevered and we have overcome. Together with our friends and families, we can maintain our strength, renew our faith, and add our voices to the millions of people who support Israel and our right to exist.

I hearken back to the words of “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, and the hope we have for the future. “As long as the Jewish spirit is deep in our heart…hope will not be lost.”