What Would Our Community Be Like Without The Flint Jewish Federation? By Reanna Steinman
Have you ever stopped to wonder what our Jewish community would be like without the Flint Jewish Federation? What would the intersection of Calkins and Dye Rd look like without the distinct brick building that is Congregation Beth Israel which houses The Ivriah? What would the inside bare, white brick walls of the building without the colorful artwork by young Jewish students displayed on them look like? What if there were no children inside the building on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, or any days at all? Imagine that edifice without the Ivriah inside of it; without Jewish children attending Sunday school or teachers teaching Hebrew and Jewish values. If you imagined an empty hallway with vacant classrooms with silence in place of chatter, laughter, Jewish melodies of prayers and trope, you imagined what part of our Jewish community would be like without the Flint Jewish Federation.
Now imagine yourself approaching the driveway of your home and going to retrieve your mail. The plastic flag on your mailbox greets you and inside you see bills, maybe the Flint Journal, a letter from a friend, reminders from Doctors’ offices, more bills, but no newspaper with the blue Star of David on the front that distinguishes itself from all the other mail. Imagine being clueless when it comes to upcoming events, Jewish holidays, or important updates about individuals within our community; usually reported to you by the “Jewish Reporter.” Without the Flint Jewish Federation, there would not be a “Jewish Reporter.”
During the months of April and May for the past 10 years has been the time of the Annual Karen Schneider Jewish Film Festival. Imagine those months approaching without the Jewish Film Festival; you have just imagined what part of our Jewish community would be like without the Flint Jewish Federation.
It may be only every now and then, you see the mini white bus with blue lettering on each side that reads “Jewish Community Services” in traffic. Among numerous Church vans of different models, sizes, and different colors on the street, it stands out; you know it is the one and only JCS bus. Imagine never being comforted by the Star of David while on the road that provides our elderly people transportation to their doctor’s appointments. Individuals within our community might struggle without transportation that is supported by the Flint Jewish Federation.
In this city it is hard to keep Kosher. Are you familiar with anyone who is unable to drive and/or prepare Kosher meals at their home that is a recipient of the Kosher Mobile Meals Program? Maybe they’re a friend, family your mother, father, or grandparent. Without the support of the Flint Jewish Federation, those Kosher meals might no longer be provided by JCS. Would those individuals have food those days they usually receive a Kosher meal? Would they eat? Would they be able to observe Kashrut?
So… you’re a fan of having a hot meal prepared for you and doing a little schmoozing, aren’t you? So are the senior citizens who come for the Kosher Congregate Meal Program on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays at Temple Beth El. They sit down, have a hot meal among friends and friendly volunteers that they
look forward to seeing each week. Now, imagine there being no program. No Kosher hot meals, no schmoozing in the big foyer that is complimented by beautiful artwork and pictures of past confirmation classes mounted on the walls. There would no longer be a Kosher Congregate Meal Program.
Nationally, there is a Hillel at almost every major college campus. Hillel is where Jewish students are welcome for services, as well as a Shabbat dinner when they are away from their Sabbath table at home. To help make Jewish students feel a little more at home, Hillel even delivers soup to the sick. Hillel is one of the many significant organizations the Flint Jewish Federation helps support. What if there was no place for college students to attend prayer or be with fellow Jews on holidays or Shabbat? Without the federations’ help, there might not be a place for college students to pray, celebrate holidays and the Sabbath, or eat and develop new bonds with other young Jewish adults. There might be no Hillel.
No matter how long it has been since you were a child or teenager, you are more than likely still able to reminisce on the irreplaceable experiences you had along with the connections you made either at B’nai Brith, Camp Ramah, Camp Maccabee, Camp Tamarack, or Camp Young Judaea. Memories made at summer camp last a lifetime. During these difficult financial times, it may not be possible for some families to send their children to Jewish summer camp. Without scholarships families may be unable to provide their kids with special, forever-lasting memories of summer camp. Some kids may never get the chance to encounter and embrace such a special atmosphere that is part of helping a member of a Jewish community at Jewish summer camps. Without the Flint Jewish Federation, some children may never get the chance.
Before I started giving my time at the Flint Jewish Federation, I had little idea how essential the Federation is to supporting the Jewish community here in Flint. Nor was I aware of how absolutely critical it is that people continue to donate to the FJF. Donations to the federation are what keeps our special Jewish community that we have up running, and active. I did not know that one gift can touch a life and make a world of a difference; one gift can open a door, answer a prayer, and empower our community. The FJF makes it possible to educate those who thirst for knowledge, provides us with special programming and unique events, makes it possible for children to make lifelong memories at Jewish summer camp and learn Hebrew and Jewish culture and values at religious school, for individuals to have meals and keep Kosher, for people to stay connected within our community, for our elderly to live in dignity and to provide assistance and tzedakah to Jews locally and worldwide. If you never stopped to ponder what our Jewish community would be like without the Flint Jewish Federation, I hope now it has hit home… because our Jewish community is our home. If we appreciate and enjoy what we have in our Jewish community that makes it so special, we need to support and donate to our Jewish Federation to keep it all going.