By Miriam Abramovich
At the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei, the reader encounters Jacob, on the run from his brother Esau. Making his way towards the home of their uncle Laban, a wife and a new life, Jacob stops for the night. With only his thoughts to keep him company and a rock for a pillow, Jacob dreams. In one of the most iconic visions of our cannon, Jacob witnesses the angels of God ascending and descending a ladder that climbs into the heavens. Fearful and anxious about the future, God sooths Jacob with a promise: “And here I am, with you: I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this soil. I will not let go of you as long as I have yet to do what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)
Vayeitzei’s story is one of journeys both actual and in the realm of dreams. Three dreams over the course of several chapters convey divine messages about the future and propel Jacob and his family forward. In the waking world, Jacob awaits an agonizing fourteen years to marry his beloved; Rachel journeys through infertility to bring Joseph into the world; and ultimately, Jacob flees again, this time with his family.
Next Wednesday evening at Congregations Shir Shalom, many from across Jewish Buffalo will gather for the joint Annual Meetings of the Buffalo Jewish Federation and the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies. This evening will mark the 119th such gathering for the Buffalo Jewish Federation, the beginning of a new journey for some and the culmination of many dreams for others. One can only wonder what the Federation’s founders were dreaming of in 1903, when four organizations joined forces to establish the Federated Jewish Charities. Did they have the foresight to imagine journeying into the 21st Century? Regardless of what the intrepid founders dreamed, they indeed were building a ladder strong enough for the community to continue climbing over a century later.
When we gather next week, Shelly Yellen, Federation’s outgoing president, will formally install his successor, Marjorie Godin Bryen along with officers Rise’ Kulick, Marc Brown, Shawn Frier and Cheryl Stein, and our new Governors: Kirstie Henry, Blaine Schwartz, Jim Kramer and Robin Raphael. These incredible individuals, along with the Federation’s full Board of Governors, are our dreamers. They are like Jacob, imbued with the warmth of our tradition and faith – and, they are cheered as seers of the future, and builders of ladders to get us there.
Miriam Abramovich is Chief Experience Officer for the Buffalo Jewish Federation.