the middle of the week separating the end of many summer camps and the start of
schools. The predominant email response is “out of office.” Otherwise, our
community calendar, we are months past the height of both JUF’s 2013 campaign
events and the allocation process that engages 300 volunteers in the
distribution of precious charitable resources.
dog days of August are for family vacations; not epic moments in Jewish
the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) – the largest single recipient of JUF funds – nor the endangered Jews of Yemen, got that
when the rare, brief opportunity arises to perform the mitzvah of redeeming
Jewish captives (pidyon shvuyim), the urgency of the moment is indifferent to our personal or communal
calendars. And so it was early this past Wednesday as JAFI orchestrated the clandestine airlifting of 17 Yemenite Jews to Israel – on
direct flights and via third countries from multiple continents.
Growing concern for the
safety of the 100 or so Yemenite Jews who remain cooped up within a guarded
compound in the capital of Sa’ana prompted the complex operation. Amidst
political turmoil and Al-Qaeda terrorism, anti-Semitic violence – including
murder – has spiked. Wednesday’s airlift to Israel reunites the 17 with the 28
others brought earlier this year and the 134 others since 2009.
Those numbers pale in
comparison to the one million Jews from the former Soviet Union and the 100,000
from Ethiopia who, also through JAFI, have found refuge in Israel the past two
decades. But if we still believe in –
and want to act upon – the Talmudic teaching that to save a single life is akin
to saving an entire world, then each of us, via our annual gifts to JUF, did
just that this week.
The contributions we
have made over the years established and expanded JAFI’s global infrastructure.
Thus, JAFI had what it needed, where it needed it (even in Sa’ana, Yemen), and
when it needed it to save the world for these 17 Yemenite Jews and their
hundreds of family members.
JAFI did that for them.
For us. Because of us.
And they did it months
after all those JUF synagogue brunches, trade dinners, women’s luncheons and
club events ended. Months after the
dollars were allocated across our Jewish community and Jewish world. And tomorrow, because of what we have done already
and faith in what we will continue to do, JAFI begins – for us as well as for them
– the absorption process for 17 of Israel’s newest citizens.
And so begins another
dramatic chapter in the life of our Jewish people – even if we are still in the
dog days of August and “out of the office.”