Why do we care? Why should we care? This week's Torah portion, Mishpatim, warns all of us, "You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, I will heed their outcry as soon as they cry out to Me." Our sages explained that G-d watches out for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger because there is no one to look after them.
Our community takes this directive seriously, and caring for the most vulnerable is central to Federation's mission. Together with our many partners, we have woven a web of support that envelops our Jewish community and extends well beyond our own boundaries. The dollars raised through Federation's Annual Campaign enable our partners - such as Jewish Family Services, Hebrew HealthCare, Jewish Association for Community Living and the Mandell JCC - to ensure that no member of our community is left behind.
This past year, a very special part of our community safety net opened its doors for the first time: Tara's Closet at Jewish Family Services. Tara Savin, who once worked in the field of fashion and later as a social worker at JFS, lost her battle with bipolar disorder at the age of 39. Tara's mother, Barbara Roth, sought a way to honor Tara's memory, her passion for fashion, and her deep commitment to helping others - and that led to the founding of Tara's Closet. Tara's Closet provides clothes for those in need and helps bring mental illness "out of the closet" so that those who need help can seek it with dignity.
On Wednesday I was amazed to learn just how widespread the impact of Tara's Closet has been. Attending a meeting at Faith Congregational Church in Hartford - the oldest African American Church in Connecticut, which now ministers to many of Hartford's poorest residents - I was approached by Pastor Stephen Camp. He told me that Tara's Closet had donated winter coats to his church, where so many gather for food, comfort and aid. Recently, a mother with two young children arrived at the church without any warm outerwear. Because of Tara's Closet, they now have warm winter coats to weather the New England chill. This may seem like a small act of kindness, but Pastor Camp assured me that the impact on this mother and her children was enormous.
The Torah focuses on orphans and widows but of course our obligation is to all those in need. What a wonderful community we have that has joined together to collect clothing for those less fortunate, that takes a bold stand against the stigma of mental illness that affects one in four Americans! We should be proud that our community is compassionate, treats everyone with dignity and thus honors our Jewish values and traditions.
President and CEO