This week's Torah portion, P'kudei, recounts the diverse offerings the Israelites made to build the Tabernacle and recalls the creation of the priestly vestments. After an inventory is taken, the people bring the Tabernacle and its furnishings to Moses, who blesses them. Moses then sets up the Tabernacle and consecrates the priests, and the presence of G-d settles on the Tabernacle, symbolized by a cloud.
This story may seem like ancient history, but there is a lesson for us today - one that Federation takes very seriously. The Tabernacle is often seen as a metaphor for a divine community built upon the diverse contributions of many. Just as the Tabernacle required many forms of offering, our Jewish community today can only succeed if we all contribute as we are able. With no Tabernacle or Temple, Jewish tradition tells us that Tefillah, Tzedakah and Teshuvah - prayer, righteousness or charity, and repentance - can replace the ancient offerings (Ta'anit 2:1, 65b).
Our Federation recently identified a unique opportunity for Tzedakah that will fill a critical need for women and girls in our community. Our Women of Impact wanted to do more to help local women and girls in need. In collaboration with Jewish Family Services, we discovered that many local women and girls are unable to attend work or school at certain times of the month because they can't afford menstrual supplies and other personal care items. These items aren't covered by government benefits such as SNAP and WIC, and people don't often think to donate them to food pantries.
This is why we've launched the Dignity Project. Throughout the year, the Women of Impact will be assembling Dignity Packs of menstrual and toiletry supplies to be given to those in need through Jewish Family Services and Mikveh Bess Israel. Each Dignity Pack contains supplies packed in a discreet black bag with a card reading "assembled with love by Federation's Women of Impact."
More than 50 women came together last Thursday night to assemble the first 150 Dignity Packs, and the goal is to assemble 1,000 during the first year. Women and friends from across our community have come forward to contribute by volunteering, donating products and providing financial support. Together, they are affirming the dignity of women and girls in need, helping them build successful futures and letting them know that they are not alone. As the producers of Period. End of Sentence said at the recent Academy Awards, "a period should end a sentence, not a girl's education."
We hope to expand the Dignity Project as time goes on, and volunteers and donors are always needed. You can learn more about the Dignity Project and its leaders and sponsors here. If you would like to get involved, please contact Meredith Chandler at firstname.lastname@example.org or
Alana Butler at email@example.com.
Shabbat Shalom, and happy International Women's Day.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford
Photo caption: Women from across our community gathered last Thursday to launch the Dignity Project.