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Happy (secular) New Year

Happy January Temple Beth Israel,


In what is generally understood to be a quite time on the Jewish calendar, the dead of winter allows us a chance to catch our collective Jewish breaths in between the joyful chaos associated with our Jewish holidays. It was an absolute joy to celebrate Chanukkah together with so many of you, both in our community wide lighting in Trinity Park as well as the Chanukkah party held at Temple Beth Israel. It  warmed my heart to see new and familiar faces; especially so many families.


While we have a free moment, I would like to shine some of that beautiful Chanukkah light onto an amazing couple within our community. I am overjoyed to extend my deep and personal appreciation to Lenny and Michelle Zelkowitz for their overwhelming gesture of charitable kindness. The Zelkowitz pledge was a gracious idea designed to raise and match synagogue donations, up to $10,000. With folks from the Temple Beth Israel community generously meeting the $10,000 mark by December 1st, the Zelkowitz will now match that amount, totaling $20,000. Thank you to all who gave. In the menschlekeit spirit of the Zelkowitz’s Challenge, I encourage us to continue thinking about how we would like to give tzedakah/charity in the new year.


As the war in Israel continues to rage on, we have highlighted Friends of the IDF, an organization that provides resources for Israeli soldiers and Magen David Adom, the Israeli ambulatory service. In February, we spoke at length about the critical work that The Syrian American Medical Society, The Center for Disaster Philanthropy, and the organization Direct Relief were doing to alleviate the suffering of Syrian and Turkish Earthquake victims, as well as providing aid to Ukrainian citizens who have been brutalized by war with Russia.


We would be remiss if we thought globally but failed to act locally. The Plattsburgh Interfaith Food Shelf: https://www.plattsburghfoodshelf.org/ feverishly strives to keep our greater community fed Monday thru Friday, no questions asked. I cannot speak highly enough about the crucial service that the food shelf provides to folks who experience food insecurity. During the winter holidays, there is an increase demand for charitable gifts and food donations. Additionally, Plattsburgh Cares: https://plattsburghcares.org/  provides food and housing resources to the transient migrant community. This organization has also appealed to the Interfaith Council for more sturdy vinyl shopping bags, which allow folks to transport their belongings with dignity. Please consider giving to each of our local charities.


How we give, how much we give, and where we give depend entirely on what causes or organizations matter to us, but we all have an obligation to give responsibly. Sadly, there are many organizations that claim to operate as relief agencies or fundraisers for medical research, but not without siphoning a healthy percentage of donations to salaries and overhead. I strongly recommend reviewing your favorite charities and non-profits through the non-profit watchdog Charity Navigator: https://www.charitynavigator.org/. As we all begrudgingly begin to gather receipts or try to convince ourselves that April 15th seems forever in the distant future, let us take advantage of the new year and subsequent tax season as an opportunity to reevaluate our giving priorities. There is no shortage of needy causes, worthy organizations, and do-gooders who are making a difference whether in our global community or in the North Country.


Chodesh tov and Happy New Year/Chag Silvester

Rabbi David

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