“This Is Us” is a television show that has gained acceptance with some audiences. It tells stories about members of a family and their experiences navigating life. They are not always in synch when it comes to acceptance of strategies or goals, but they do always come forth in support of each other.
I would liken the Mobile Area Jewish Federation to a family. We are as diverse in makeup as any family, and each individual brings his/her goals, likes, dislikes, desires to the table. I believe that there are several overarching reasons we continue to be able function. In South Alabama, we are the primary advocate for the State of Israel. Again, we might not agree on what Israel is doing or how it is doing it, but we share the belief that Israel does deserve to exist and Israel deserves our support to this end. For this reason, a portion of our funding is directed to social welfare programs in Israel.
MAJF supports Jewish life here at home. We provide a principal level of support for the Gulf Coast Holocaust Education Center. The goals of this organization include the training of both Jewish and non-Jewish educators in how to best teach people and groups in South Alabama about the Holocaust and how this knowledge should not be allowed to be forgotten. The memories of the wrongs done to Jews and to non-Jewish minorities by the aggressors during the Second World War should be examples of how we must be motivated to prevent this from ever occurring again. MAJF supports this objective.
MAJF provides support for our children at both ends of the educational spectrum. Gan Shalom is a Jewish Day School the provides for the educational needs of very young children, before they enter the regular education system. We also provide Jewish culture for college students through funding of Hillel organizations at Auburn and Alabama. In this day and age where every political candidate advertises that he/she espouses Christian values, I feel it is necessary to remind people of Jewish values. These Jewish value concepts hopefully are taught at the respective Hillel organizations, as well as providing a site at which Jewish students can meet and interact.
We know nothing about Jewish Family Services – and this is intentional. This group provides support to Jewish individuals and families who find themselves in need, and this is done in a confidential manner so that no one will feel that his/her plight will become fodder for idle conversation. MAJF provides all the funding for these activities.
In addition to allocations we disperse following a review of the aims of those organizations and how they might match the ends to which MAJF aspires, we try to support daily Jewish life on the the Gulf Coast. We sponsor programs that are educational and/or entertaining but that also convey Jewish values. In the past, we have sponsored a young Israeli in our community. This person, a member of the Schlichim program run by the Jewish Agency in Israel, acts as an emissary from Israel providing first-hand accounts of what is happening in Israel and to Israel. The Israeli conveys his/her knowledge to both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences in South Alabama. Unfortunately, due to funding constraints, MAJF has been unable to sponsor this program this year. It is our hope that, through a successful conclusion to the Annual Campaign, it will be possible to resume participation in this program.
I have attempted to highlight some of the range of efforts that are sponsored by the Mobile Area Jewish Federation. The list can go on but I believe that the theme has become evident. As President of MAJF, I have interacted with many members of our community. As can be expected, not everyone is pleased. Some believe that we are not vigorous enough in our support of Israel. Others believe that we are dedicating too much effort to social programs in Israel and should redirect our focus to elements that provide for actions and activities here at home. This disparity in opinion is completely predictable. However, like the settings in “This Is Us,” no matter how much we agree or choose to disagree on anything MAJF does or doesn’t do, it is our family. We are the “Us,” and I hope you can find it within yourselves to join with Jews in our community to come together and become active participants with fellow Jews in the Mobile area.