Over the past few years, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has sent several missions to Cuba. We witnessed a small yet vibrant Jewish community and saw the work our dollars make possible with our own eyes. As part of those missions, we visited the American Intersection. As you know, the United States has not had diplomatic relations with Cuba so there is no American Embassy there. The Intersection serves that role.
In our meetings with the staff of the Intersection, we learned about the United States relationship with Cuba and we advocated for the release of Alan Gross. Alan’s release on the first day of Chanukah brought out strong emotions from many of us who have been involved in encouraging his freedom. During the last few years, many of you may have signed an online petition that was sent out by our Community Relations Council (CRC) asking our community (and CRC’s in communities across the country did the same) to lobby for his release. In Alan Gross’ speech, upon his return to the United States, he said:
“To the Washington Jewish community, Ron Halber in particular and his staff at the Jewish Community Relations Council, all of the executive directors, staff and volunteers of participating JCRCs, federations, synagogues, schools, and other Jewish, Christian and Muslim organizations nationwide, God bless you and thank you. It was crucial to my survival knowing that I was not forgotten. Your prayers and actions have been comforting, reassuring, and sustaining.”
This same week we heard the announcement of the passing of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act by Congress. As the JTA reported: “The act…would allow anyone with a disability and their families to save money for education, housing, transportation, employment support and health…” It goes on to credit Federations and the Reform Movement for their advocacy. A group of us from Pittsburgh traveled to DC in the spring and visited with our Representatives in Congress to advocate for this important piece of legislation to assist many in our community.
We are in the midst of Chanukah. We reflect on the many miracles that are part of the Chanukah story. Are these two examples miracles? Maybe, but for sure, they demonstrate the power of our Federation system and of how much we can accomplish by working together.
Happy Chanukah. Shabbat Shalom. And thank you for being part of our powerful collective.
P.S. With over 700 people already registered for Mitzvah Day next week, we already know we are in for a successful day!