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Standing Strong with Israel: Lessons from Parshat Noah

A Message of Support from Steven Handmaker, President, Board of Directors

As The Ark reflects upon the origin of our name and the symbolism behind the biblical story of Noah, we’re reminded of our commitment to stand as a beacon for our community – offering shelter during turbulent times and stability amidst the storm. On behalf of the Board, I extend our deepest gratitude for the dedication and efforts of our community, especially as we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Israel during these times of adversity.

A Message from Rabbi Shlomo Tenenbaum, The Ark’s Director of Spiritual Enrichment

I have written dozens of Dvrei Torah on Parashat Noah, and after nearly four decades working at The Ark, it should be almost effortless. But this year is different.

Noah’s Ark served as a sanctuary to escape the perilous flood. My children and grandchildren, the youngest being only three-and-a-half years old, currently find themselves in and out of a bomb shelter every few hours. For them, that shelter is their Ark.

Rashi on the Parsha offers an interpretation of Genesis 7:23 that Noah’s nonstop efforts caring for the others in the Ark left him so physically depleted, he was actually coughing up blood.

Right now, the entire beautiful people of Israel have become Noah’s – giving all their strength to stand by each other. Even elderly soldiers are running to the battlefront to help. I just heard Rabbi Asher Weiss describe a shiva house he visited in which two sons volunteered at the front and both tragically lost their lives defending their brethren. My own son tells me he hasn’t slept in over two days between Hatzalah services, volunteer police duty, and training hundreds in trauma counseling.

Outside of Israel, people are working tirelessly to raise money and offer support in every possible way. Right now, the entire Jewish community is Noah’s Ark.

In light of these challenging times, someone recently asked me how our own agency has changed and adapted to new obstacles in the 40 years that I have been privileged to serve our community. I won’t address that here, but I can attest to what hasn’t changed in all these years.

The frontline staff working with clients continue to be the best, most dedicated, professionals our community has to offer. It’s not uncommon for an Ark social worker, many of whom are parents of young children, to call me at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. to make sure a family or individual receives the support they need or to discuss a solution to a problem. Under the amazing leadership of our Director of Social Services, Naomi Ledersnaider, and Clinical Director, Victoria Hass, PhD, they’ve assembled a dream team where each individual is a superstar in their field.

It gives me great inspiration to see a young, new generation of sterling souls caring for our community. Especially in these dark times, I feel hope as I see all of Klal Yisroel create Arks of unity and light to carry us forward. May G-d bless all those who serve the community with faith.

I recently heard a heartwarming story that happened just before this past Rosh Hashanah. A Jewish individual was driving, and his car brushed up against the car next to him. He left a note with his phone number on the scratched car’s windshield. When the car’s owner found the note, he noticed that the driver wrote it on the only paper he had handy—the back of a bank statement. He promptly called the driver and said, “Thank you for leaving a note, but I’m not concerned about the scratch. However, with the holidays approaching, I noticed that you have a very low balance. I want to give you a few thousand dollars so your family can enjoy the chagim with simcha and comfort.”

This is the spirit of who we are as Jews and who we are as a community. Long after the current difficult circumstances end, we should continue standing by each other in peace and harmony.