Be a light this holiday season!

November 30, 2022

As the winter months arrive and Chanukah approaches, themes of light and hope fill the air. We gather for eight nights and light candles as we remember and appreciate our religious freedom. We eat foods that are sweet and cooked in oil to remember the miracle that happened so many years ago. Our days become shorter, and the nights becomes longer as the sun sets so early this time of year.

For many, our winter holidays represent joy and excitement, but it can also bring struggle, hardship, and anxiety to so many others. Whether it be financial hardship and food insecurity, the struggle for independence, loneliness and isolation, or mental health and anxiety, the winter months and the holiday season can bring about an onset of challenges for the most vulnerable members of society.

The Jewish people are commanded to be a “light of nations.” We are commanded to lift people out of darkness so they can see the light. Our rabbis and teachers opine about this quote, and one of my favorite interpretations is its call to action for all of us. As we take care of ourselves and look toward our own celebrations filled with latkes and sufganiyot, we are taught to help others and look for opportunities to serve.

As a child of a Holocaust survivor, the stories around my holiday table were filled with stories of struggle and survival. While the story of Chanukah was one etched in history, my family’s story and the stories of our friends were not historical or biblical, rather they felt like moments ago. It was very clear that the legacy of my grandparents and the legacy of their community left me with lessons that would carry me the rest of my life.

My grandparents were resistance fighters in Poland. For fear of their lives, they went into hiding.

This is where my father’s story begins. In the darkest of times, my own family risked their lives to make a stand for our future and to protect our Jewish people. At the same time, my family was saved by others who risked life and limb for my family’s freedom, for my future. My grandparents and the community that surrounded us were real-life heroes. As a child, it left me with the desire to walk in their footsteps. I felt that my life and my future were gifts. We all stand on the shoulders of so many who came before us. The fight for survival, the struggle for independence, and the need to help one another are still very much relevant and alive today.

While millions of people had their future stolen, others worked to protect ours. They risked everything to save lives and secure a future filled with hope and healing. These people are the light in our history, and that light exists today. The light and hope for a better future exist in each one of us! It is important to understand and own our responsibility to one another. We are the light for future generations.

While my drive to help others is based in history, the fact that thousands of people in our community struggle is very real. Our ancestors survived and left us the legacy of Tikkun Olam, a commitment to improve this world and make it a better place.

As I embark on this new role, it is clear that the needs are endless. Samost Jewish Family and Children’s Service works day in and day out to repair our local community. We work with youth, families, and elderly to bring light into what may be the darkest of times for people. Through counseling and case management, senior services, support groups, prevention programs, vocational training and job coaching, domestic violence intervention, meal deliveries and food pantry services, just to a name a few—we offer help, hope, and healing to those in need.

JFCS brings light into our community by helping others. However, we don’t do it alone. We rely on the support and guidance of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of donors. For those of you who have joined us in helping to repair the world, I thank you. For those who have yet to join us, please know that you are welcome. We hope that we can work together to help those in our community who are most in need.

There are so many ways to shine a light into our community. Most recently, our Rhona Fischer (z”l) Family Assistance Program launched our “Adopt a Family” holiday campaign. So many families don’t have the financial means to celebrate this holiday season. Whether it be holiday meals or gifts for their children, they struggle. You can help us make their holidays a little brighter by joining our campaign to support more than 500 families this holiday season. To adopt a family, you can donate gift cards to Target, Walmart, Visa, or Wawa, making sure that a family like yours can shine this holiday season.

For more information on how you can adopt a family, please contact Sherri Jonas, director of Volunteer Services, at (856) 424-1333, ext. 1180 or

For those of you who are reading this article and may feel that you need a little light in your life, I ask you to reach out. Whether it be to put food on your table, lend a listening ear, or help you find services and/or support, please know that we are here for you. For support, please call (856) 424-1333.

Together, we can truly make a difference. Together, we will be a “light of nations.” Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!