November 3, 2023

Dear JFCS Family,

This all feels very surreal and still raw. Over the last month, the world has drastically changed. Since our homeland was attacked, we no longer feel secure. Shortly after war was declared, our college campuses and school systems erupted with massive displays of anti-Semitism. Our Holocaust Survivors are traumatized. They have said: “Never Again is Now. I can’t believe this is happening again.”

Even here in our own neighborhoods, we hear that parents, children, and grandparents don’t feel safe. Just over 20 years ago, my family and I moved to Cherry Hill because of the robust Jewish community. If you asked me then, if I would ever hear my son would say, “Mom, I don’t feel safe going to school today, because I am Jewish,” I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but only two weeks ago – he said those exact words to me. He is not an anomaly.

In the last 28 days, we have held more than 12 support groups, and connected with over 200 clients, many of whom are parents or grandparents. We are actively seeing displaced Israeli families and American families struggling with anxiety due to anti-Semitism who need emotional and social support. Local parents have shared:

“My 6-year-old asked me, if a stranger asks me if I am Jewish, should I tell them? Is it safe?”

“My college student asked if they could take down their mezuzah because they are afraid of being attacked.”

“My daughter’s field hockey coach is posting anti-Semitic propaganda on their Facebook page. Should I say something to the league? I am afraid of retribution for my 2nd grade daughter.”

Growing up in a heavily non-Jewish area among Holocaust Survivors, I am not a stranger to anti-Semitism. My first interaction was when I was five and my neighbor used a racial slur to describe my family and me. I pushed her off her swing set and ran home. A difficult lesson learned way too young – one I hoped to protect my own children from until they were adults.

Parenting is hard enough without discrimination and violence getting in the way. This is why this Tuesday, November 7, 2023, we will host a free workshop for our community. Parenting Through Adversity will start at 7:00 pm at Temple Beth Sholom. We hope you will join us for this important conversation.

The Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and its agencies including Jewish Community Relations Council, the Saltzman Foundation and JFED Security are working to ensure the safety and vibrancy of our community. Our local, regional, and national politicians stand with us. Just this week, Congressman Donald Norcross held a press conference in partnership with the Jewish Federation at the Katz JCC to denounce hatred and anti-Semitism. To proclaim that Hate Has No Place in our country.

Our path is clear. We will not be silent. We will exercise our voices to ensure our children are safe in schools, in colleges, and in our own neighborhoods. We are proud to be part of a team of agencies who care for our community’s mental and physical health.

We will protect the future of our Jewish and general community to ensure that Never Again is NOT now! As a daughter of a Survivor, I know that we MUST succeed.

Regardless of our fear and sadness, I am grateful to all of you for holding us up. I thank you for your ongoing partnership and connection. In times of crisis, we must stand together. We must stand strong. Thank you for standing with us day in and day out. You all bring us hope for better days to come and brighter skies on the horizon.

Wishing you peace and love on this Shabbat and always,

Raechel Hammer