Editorial: End of Year Decisions

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

The last candle of the Chanukiah sputtered out almost a week ago, and early next week, our Christian neighbors will celebrate Christmas and move on. We have just 10 days to wrap up all the loose ends of 2012 before dealing with whatever realities await us in the New Year.

As I write this editorial, our country is edging toward the “fiscal cliff” – a no holds barred approach to attacking the U.S.’s spiraling debt. News stories warn us of steep tax increases and draconian cuts in spending across the board, the combination of which will probably crush our nascent financial recovery forcing us back into recession – a fate no one seems to want, but toward which political party hardliners – who don’t even seem to be listening to one another or their constituents – appear to be incapable of preventing.

Hopefully, by the time this newspaper reaches your mailboxes, the preceding paragraph will be woefully outdated.
Whatever happens in Washington, all of us have just a few days left to make our year-end philanthropic decisions. Where will our charitable dollars make a real difference in people’s lives? Where can we get the biggest bang for our bucks?

For me, the answer is simple: the Annual Federation Campaign.

If we do go over the “fiscal cliff” and our economy takes a nosedive into recession, a lot of people will be hurt. Jobs will be lost and people will need help finding new ones – if they exist at all. Families may need counseling to deal with creditors and stress. They may need food to tide them over because even if they qualify for Food Stamps, $31.50 per person per week just doesn’t go very far.

If there are children involved, they may need scholarship assistance with fees for Hebrew School and JCC Summer Camp. They may just need someone to direct them to the appropriate resources.

Jewish Family & Career Services (JFCS) provides many of those services with the Jewish Community Center and Louisville Beit Sefer Yachad picking up the rest.

I want to be able to help my friends and neighbors in these ways, should they need it. I also don’t want them to be embarrassed about their need. I don’t want to know who needs help and I don’t want them to know that I am providing assistance.

For me, the Annual Federation Campaign is the answer. It enables me to give what I can and assures me that those in my community who need the help will get it while keeping specific knowledge of the gift private.
Israel is also very important to me. I know I can’t do anything to solve the conflict with the Palestinians or stop the rocket attacks, targeted killings or suicide bombers. But when it comes to the victims of those attacks, I want to make a difference. I can help ensure that traumatized children can enjoy occasional days playing at attractions in safe areas of the country where they can just be children without worrying if they are 14-15 seconds from a bomb shelter.

I want to ensure that counseling is available for dysfunctional families, that special needs children have programs that help them reach their full potentials, that high school drop-outs get a second chance and that impoverished, frail seniors can live out their lives in dignity.

I also want to continue to build Louisville’s relationship with Israel’s Western Galilee region. These exchanges have resulted in shared medical knowledge and expertise, rich cultural exchanges and opportunities for people to develop stronger Jewish identities and a personal relationship to Israel.

And I can’t think of a program that is more effective at connecting Jewish young people to Israel, to Judaism and to each other than Birthright Israel. My own daughter met her bashert (the one fated to be her life partner) on a Birthright trip.

When it comes to Israel, the Annual Federation Campaign is the answer. I know the dollars I give are doing extraordinary things in Louisville, in Israel and around the world.

Another thing that is important to me is having a strong, warm, welcoming Jewish community right here in Louisville. I want to invite as many people as possible to be part of our Jewish community. That might mean families coming together for a Shabbat dinner at the JCC, a senior who can no longer drive calling JFCS for ride to the doctor. It might be a teen going to his first regional BBYO event or a person attending a musical production at CenterStage or the annual Goldstein/Leibson lecture. It could be a child receiving a Jewish book through The PJ Library, an advocate for Israel working with Hillel students so they know how to respond to anti-Israel activity on campus or an interfaith Chanukah party that helps our non-Jewish neighbors understand a bit more about us.

The Annual Federation Campaign lets me help build and strengthen the Jewish community of my dreams.

If I can do all of this with my one gift, how can I ask for anything more?

The Wallaces are ready for the New Year. We have now made the last payment on our pledges to the 2012 Federation Campaign and we’ve made our pledges to the 2013 Campaign. We’ve dug a little deeper and it will take us most of next year to pay off our commitment, a bit at a time, but we know we’ve made the best investment in the future of our community that we can.

Won’t you join us? Pay your previous pledges to the Federation Campaign by December 31 to take advantage of the Federal tax deductions to which you are entitled. Then, make a stretch pledge to the 2013 Federation Campaign, because together, all of us do extraordinary things.

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