In case you were not aware, or have been on Mars for the past year, there is a Presidential election currently in process. The speeches, debates, pundits, tsunami of commercials, and repugnant rhetoric caused me to think of how elections were conducted when television was still in it's infancy. There were no 24 hour news stations broadcasting urgent news alerts every time a candidate skipped a meal. The rhetoric was different and the speeches became courses in effective communication.
One of the best speeches was given by then Presidential Candidate John F. Kennedy upon accepting the Democratic party's nomination at the 1960 convention in Los Angeles. Over the years I have used a quote from this speech at several speaking engagements as I feel it has significant gravity for the Jewish community.
"We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sure future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do."
President Kennedy's words ring as true today as they did in 1960. In fact, those words could serve as a mission statement for the work of the Jewish Federation. We are here to guide people out of the darkness. We are here to be proactive and dynamic when solving the issues that impact our community. We are here to secure the future of our community.
We, as a people, have terrific examples of those who have not been satisfied with simply cursing the darkness. Henrietta Sczold who, in addition to founding Hadassah hospital, immigrated to Palestine in 1933 and helped run Youth Aliyah, which rescued 30,000 Jewish children from Nazi Europe. Natan Sharansky, whose strength and opposition to Russian brutality inspired Russian Jews who have changed the Jewish experience. There are countless other, less famous, examples of those who have brought light to the world. The key is that very few of them were able to light those candles alone. They had their community supporting them, advocating for them, and joining them in their dream.
So, in contrast with Disraelis' quote, we as a community must not prepare for the worse, we must prevent the worse. We should not hope for the best, we should create the best. We are responsible for the future of our community and ensuring that no one continues to live in darkness. If you're looking for candles…I have several boxes in my office ready to be lit!
As always, I welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.