Update from Phil Malcom

We’ve all grown accustomed to negativity in our daily news feed. Violence, divisiveness, rising antisemitism—the list goes on, and we’ve discussed many of these items in our updates over the last several months. Most recently, hatred struck close to home with antisemitic fliers spread throughout the Leawood West neighborhood. This was addressed by our own Jewish Community Relations Council in a community update last week. Moments like these make us question the longevity of civil society, doubt our place in the world, and can drive us inward as a community. It is tempting to use these moments as reasons to despair or to close ranks or to live in fear.

But the Omaha Jewish community is different. Every day we make the conscious choice to practice tikkun olam—to go down the path of tolerance, peace, and love for our neighbor. The signs all around our campus announce that “Everyone is Welcome,” and even in moments of fear and anxiety, we double down on this philosophy and choose joy over anger. Of course, we are increasing our security and ensuring we are keeping each other safe, but we do this without losing our spirit along the way.

In 2013 the band Alternate Routes wrote a song for Newtown Kindness, a nonprofit formed in the wake of the Newtown school shooting. Newtown Kindness (recently renamed the Charlotte Helen Bacon Foundation) works to carry on the legacy of kindness inspired by Charlotte Helen Bacon, a six-year-old who lost her life in the shooting. This song, called “Nothing More,” captures the spirit of responding to hatred with goodness:

We are love, we are one
We are how we treat each other when the day is done
We are peace, we are war
We are how we treat each other and nothing more

Today is my 36th birthday. I woke up sore and tired and greeted by the usual collection of distressing news stories. Then I took my daughters to the Jewish Community Center’s Early Learning Center and saw the truly unbridled joy that comes from children in an environment where they are loved, supported, and celebrated. Next week I look forward to visiting my grandmother at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home. Her dementia has progressed substantially, but she absolutely lights up when she hears the musical guests brought in by the Activities team. When I open up the Jewish Press or observe the good work being done by any of our other agencies and partners I see the ways in which we practice tikkun olam in both big ways and small ways each day. While each passing year teaches me that the world is increasingly complex and challenging, it also presents fresh reminders that people have tremendous capacity for goodness.

We practice tikkun olam when we treat each other with kindness. We practice tikkun olam when we welcome the stranger. We practice tikkun olam when we respond to fear with love. And we practice tikkun olam when we make the conscious choice each day to see the good in the world around us, despite its multiple failings. This is the work of the Jewish Federation of Omaha. It is challenging work, and we are not perfect in it. But it is good work, and I am thankful to have all of you with us as we accomplish it together.

Shabbat Shalom,
Phil Malcom,
JFO Interim CEO