February 2, 2024

Dear JFCS Family,

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” This past week was exhilarating! I so appreciated the opportunity to join the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey on an advocacy trip to Washington, D.C. as part of the Jewish Federations of North America’s Fly-In experience. Over 400 professionals and lay leaders from across the country spoke with our legislative officials to advocate on important issues affecting our Jewish communities.

A core component of our social practice is advocacy and empowerment, not only for our clients but for our broader community. However, this week was very special as we were able to visit with our own representatives and ask them for support on behalf of our community.

While we advocate and lobby for so many important issues, this past week we asked Congress to join our fight against anti-Semitism across the country and on college campuses, to support Israel by continuing to send them aid and support, and last but certainly not least, to help us free the hostages and bring them home.

Growing up in a small Jewish community, I was acutely aware of the realities that religious minorities face. I remember growing up facing ridicule and admonition from my peers because I was Jewish. I found and held onto my allies and my friends, who had become part of my tribe. I will never forget the feelings of isolation, fear, and trauma I experienced due to anti-Semitism.

I will always remember the lessons my father and my grandparents (who are/were Holocaust Survivors) taught me about community, acceptance, and kindness. They were staunch believers in building allies and fighting anti-Semitism. It was their influence that helped me find my path in life – to become a social worker and join this amazing community at Jewish Family & Children’s Service. I know my grandparents are looking down from above and are so proud because I am continuing their legacy of service and support.

With anti-Semitism on the rise (a 400% increase in incidents) and more than 130 souls still trapped in Gaza, the time and energy we spent in Washington, D.C. was imperative. Our voices were heard – and more importantly, we shared our hopes and dreams with those who guide and steer the future of this country. It was an honor and a privilege to join Jen Weiss, Ed Rivkin, Ivy Brown Rovner, Ronit Boyd, Oded Kraus, Sabrina Spector, Susan Dermer, Dorin Mendelby, and Bud Monoghan on this important journey.

A thank you to those Congresspeople who met with us and those who support our community’s needs. A special thank you to Congressman Donald Norcross, Mary Cruz, Chief of Staff to Congressman Norcross, Representative Joshua Gottheimer, Senator Bob Menendez, and the legislative aides from Senator Cory Booker’s office. Your service is deeply appreciated, and we thank you for your support of our country and our community.

As we think about the importance of advocacy and empowerment, I encourage you all to make your voices heard! The founders of this great country knew that its strength and power depended on citizens’ efforts to be engaged and involved. I thank you all for your support, and I know that together we will always be stronger!

Wishing you love and peace on this Shabbat and always,

All my best,

Raechel Hammer