In My View: Ascending Our Communal Ladder

By Elisa Schindler Frankel / President / Jewish Federation of the Berkshires

Two memorable stories in Parashat Vayetze (Genesis 28:10–32:3) involve the dreams of our patriarch Jacob. The first, more famous episode occurs when Jacob hears God’s call while resting at night, using a stone as a pillow:

And he dreamed and behold! A ladder set up on the ground and its top reached to heaven; and behold, angels of God were ascending and descending upon it. (Genesis 28:12)

Later, Jacob tells his wives Rachel and Leah about how his fortunes have risen thanks to divine intervention and recounts the moment he answered God’s call:

And the angel of God said unto me in the dream: “Jacob”; and I said: “Here am I” (Genesis 31:11)

As with Jacob, so too with our Federation’s supporters.

The dream was to raise $1,000,000.

You heard the call.

You answered it.

For me, Jacob’s ladder symbolizes our Berkshire Jewish community. Each of you is a vital part of our mission to care for those in need. Together, we nurture and sustain the Jewish community across the Berkshires and beyond.

The ladder is also a metaphor for our campaign. Each rung represents one way that the Federation makes a difference for our vibrant, year-round Jewish community by Caring, Celebrating, Connecting, and Creating.

You answered the call to Care for our most vulnerable. Your gifts:

  • Enabled our Jewish Family Services social worker to increase her hours to reach out, support, and follow the well-being of more than 100 individuals in need who faced a greater sense of isolation due to the pandemic
  • Supported our food services team in running the Kosher Hot Lunch Program, Kosher Meals on Wheels Delivery to the Homebound, and Grab-and-Go Kosher holiday meals.
  • Allowed our volunteer coordinator and cadre of dedicated volunteers to connect through deliveries of holiday packages, drive-through visits at nursing homes and senior living facilities, and holiday cards crafted by our youngest PJ library volunteers.

You answered the call to Connect and Celebrate by joining us for our engaging virtual educational programs and in-person holiday celebrations, as well as by subscribing to the Berkshire Jewish Voice.

This past year, a highlight for me was Community Day at High Lawn Farm in Lee, which kicked off our annual campaign on Super Tzedakah Week. We imagined an outdoor event where people of all ages could come together as one. And on a beautiful day in May against the exquisite backdrop of the farm, we basked in the sun, convened with nature, connected with one another, met the cows, enjoyed PJ Library storytime, hula hooped, and scooped up the most delicious ice cream in the Berkshires.

Another high point was our Chanukah celebration at NightWood at The Mount in Lenox. We strolled through the ethereal winter landscape under twinkling stars, immersed in sound, light, and color that evoked feelings of wonder, mystery, and magic. We ended our evening around the firepit, kindling the menorah lights and celebrating with live music, Chanukah songs, glow fun, chocolate gelt, and hot drinks. It was an evening filled with laughter, light, and love.

I look forward to connecting with you at Federation events on the calendar for this coming year – our Community-Wide Havdalah, Yom HaShoah film screening and candle lighting, and Shabbat Across the Berkshires.

Join me, too, in welcoming Rabbi Daveen Litwin as our Director of Community Engagement and Programming and Molly Meador as Coordinator of Volunteers and PJ Library. We also wish a fond farewell to Susan Frisch Lehrer, who has served our community so well for the last 17 years.

You answered the call. Together we are building a dynamic and vibrant Jewish Federation – our community’s gateway into the Jewish future. We have been energized by your generosity, which gives us more capacity to pursue essential goals from our Strategic Plan.

Thank you again to our donors, our leadership, and our volunteers – for your partnership and support as we head into 2022!

Illustration: And He Dreamed” by Larry Frankel