Starting a Lifeline for the Future of the Jewish People

May 24, 2024Rachel Gebeloff

I once was proud to call myself a member of Gen-Z. I thought I belonged to a generation who stood for intersectionality in our advocacy and feminism. This all changed when the world flipped upside down for Jewish people on October 7. Witnessing some of my closest friends label atrocities as "resistance" and dismiss the pain of Jews was a stark awakening. Every time I log onto social media, I brace myself for the inevitable clash with someone I care about holding hurtful views. Embracing diverse perspectives is crucial to growth, but discussions should be grounded in education rather than fueled by propaganda. As I navigate these encounters, I've found myself reevaluating my relationships, carefully considering who makes me still feel safe and valued. 

To put it lightly, it is a weird time to be in college. As a newly enrolled part-time graduate student, and full-time employee at Women of Reform Judaism, I find myself hyper aware of my actions, voice, and perception in the classroom. As I end my first semester, I watch as students at college campuses around the country push the limits of free speech. Jewish students experience harassment and hatred, which is always followed by “but.” This "but" serves as a painful reminder that even in spaces supposedly dedicated to open dialogue and inclusivity, Jewish voices are dismissed.

Working in the world of Jewish philanthropy, I understood why my email inbox was flooded with appeals from organizations soliciting funds for Israel on October 8. As a graduate student in my twenties, my capacity to give is constrained. Yet, my time working for WRJ has shown me the transformative power of philanthropy. When thinking about where I could donate in October, I knew the YES Fund would provide much needed remedies to the upheaval of our grantees. Motivated by a desire to make a difference, I started my own lifeline this October.

I have the innate privilege of staffing WRJ’s grant allocations committee, facilitating contact and building relationships with our YES Fund grantees. I support lay leaders through the process of intimately getting to know every proposal, organization, and program we have the potential to support. Lately, I’ve been thinking of our grantee Leo Baeck Education Center and their Arab Jewish summer camp WRJ has proudly funded for years. The conversations they facilitate and the space they create are more important than ever. 

As time passes, I grow prouder to work for WRJ. From our unwavering advocacy for reproductive health and pay equity, to our support of Israel, I find personal alignment with our organization's values. In May 2023, we stood shoulder to shoulder with our progressive Israeli Reform Movement partners as they courageously protested the protentional erasure of democracy by their government. In October 2023, we acted swiftly, offering our prayers, support, and emergency funding without hesitation. Working for an organization that embraces nuance and acknowledges the complexity of issues is a privilege for which I am deeply grateful. Multiple truths can coexist, which is a line of thinking I wish my generation understood.

WRJ is more than a job. My conversations with lay leaders feel like family, and watching our grantees accomplishments gives me naches. While I have been personally and professionally consumed by the results of October, WRJ is a safe space. Everything I’ve learned working at WRJ has culminated into a transformative Jewish journey of my own. Each day, as I wear the Star of David around my neck—a deliberate choice I've made for the first time—I am reminded of the profound resilience and strength it symbolizes. The pride I feel through the star on my neck will translate to the meaning of obtaining my lifeline. To me, the circular design of the lifeline embodies the principle of l'dor vador—the passing of values from one generation to the next. The lifeline symbolizes the legacy of Reform Jewish women who have left a lasting mark on the world. The beautiful relationships I have built through working at WRJ connects to the lifeline pin I will one day proudly wear. 

If you are interested in starting a lifeline yourself, please contact Rachel Gebeloff at rgebeloff@wrj.org.

 

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