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I had a chance to get away with my wife for a vacation and then with my kids for a father-sons trip in early June.  It was much needed and gave me a chance to rest and recharge.  After the past 15 months, I didn’t realize just how exhausted and how deep the exhaustion actually went.  It made me realize just how exhausted our Jewish professionals in Orlando all must be.  For the past 15 months they have been working tirelessly in strange and difficult situations to provide for the needs of our community.  Those working with seniors weren’t able to see them in person or have their group gatherings.  Those with college students were limited to outdoor events and increased stress.  Our clergy were doing religious services and Simchas on zoom and sharing Torah to an empty room while people watched on their computers.  Our mental health workers and food pantry had to do it virtually and couldn’t interact in person.  Our Jewish educators did some virtual classes and had to teach in rooms with masks with new rules about social distancing and interactions with other rooms of children.  I’m getting more exhausted as I write this and think about it all.

What I really want to do is say THANK YOU to all of them.  It’s easy to forget just how much they have all given and sacrificed for the betterment of our community.  It’s easy to focus on our amazing health care workers who put their lives at risk.  When you see one of our amazing Jewish communal professionals in Orlando, please make sure to thank them.  It’s only their commitment and then efforts that kept our community going during the pandemic.

As I took the time to relax, reflect and take in the past year I noticed the toll it has taken on all of us. The emotional rollercoaster and trauma have affected all of us in different ways. Our community needs healing and unfortunately, instead, we are experiences extremely high waves of antisemitism and hatred. With the rise of anti-Semitism, we are all a little more wary and concerned.  I had the privilege of co-authoring an Op-Ed on Sunday in the Orlando Sentinel with Representative Stephanie Murphy.  There are two lines in the Op-Ed I want to highlight for you.  The first is, “We need leaders in Washington, Tallahassee, and communities around the country to condemn anti-Jewish conduct is morally unambiguous language, without any attempt to excuse, rationalize, or justify such behavior.”  And the second, perhaps even more important, “visit ActAgainstAntisemitism.org, which offers information about concrete steps you can take to make a difference in your community. Please, make your voice heard. Rather than being a bystander, take a stand.”  We live in a time when we cannot be silent and we must speak up.  I hope you take action.

And as we prepare for Shabbat this week, I am proud to share that The Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando has adopted the IRHA definition of anti-Semitism.  This definition gives us clarity about what anti-Semitism is and has been adopted by many countries, businesses, etc.  I encourage you to read the definition and use it when people as what is anti-Semitism.

Shabbat Shalom,

Keith