It’s February and Valentine’s Day is literally “right around the corner” as the saying goes. During this month and on this universal holiday we all seem keenly aware of where our hearts are focused. We are eager to show that devotion and traditionally we demonstrate our care in concrete ways with gifts of cards and heart-shaped boxes of candy.
At NFESH February also traditionally has been the time when the Foundation has honored the lives and legacies of NFESH’s founder and CEO Enid Borden’s parents by awarding grants from the Jack and Eleanor Borden Memorial Fund to community-based organizations that assist Jewish seniors in their communities. Support of those programs has been and remains important work, not only because it provides financial support to entities that rely on such contributions but, as significantly, because it helps draw attention to and preserve a precious heritage. That heritage belongs not only to one particular nuclear family, whose name the fund bears, but also to the much larger family across our nation who share the same ethnicity and faith tradition.
The custom of caring for neighbors is one of longstanding within both the Jewish community and our larger American heritage. While we engage in it at all times, it is most critically needed, and therefore most cherished, in difficult and challenging times; in unusual and therefore unfamiliar and frightening times; in times that Charles Dickens would have referred to as “the worst of times.”
But such times also tend to draw out the best in us by leading us to broaden our perspective and experience and to bring our shared resources and unique skills together in ways we otherwise would not have considered. As NFESH’s manner of doing that this year, we have chosen to award the 2022 Jack and Eleanor Borden Memorial Fund grant, on February 12 in honor of Eleanor and Jack’s wedding anniversary, to the Good People Fund — and through it to reach more needy individuals in more ways than we otherwise would have.
The Good People Fund, in its own words, “provides financial support and management guidance for small to medium grassroots efforts devoted to tikkun olam (repairing the world).” They do so through three key program areas, focused among other things, on combatting social isolation, particularly among an aging and largely immigrant Jewish population. Unique among Good People’s work is the Survivor Mitzvah Project through which they hope to write, in their words, “a more hopeful final chapter to the Holocaust.” The Fund also serves the community through two other charitable initiatives — Music Mends Minds and LiLY – Lifeforce in Later Years.
The task of “repairing the world” is a monumental aspiration but one to which the Jewish people throughout their history have been deeply committed. NFESH is as well, even as we acknowledge that no one organization can do it alone.
The Jack and Eleanor Borden Memorial Fund’s financial support of the Good People Fund, its contribution to an entity other than a local home-delivered meal program, is new this year. But its resolve, purpose and heritage are not.
For generations people and organizations have cherished and repeated the ways and the wisdom of their forbears and have sought to live by them. Sometimes this shared insight is memorialized in a proverb – words that can be easily remembered and repeated, cherished, heeded and passed down from one generation to the next.
One such proverb – an ancient Hebrew proverb – declares: “Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor.” Or, as a more modern translation proclaims, “… because they can help each other succeed.”
NFESH and the Good People Fund are “two” such as that. In these strange and challenging times of hardship for many, of illness, loneliness, economic need, and social isolation, together we are dedicated to tikkun olam and to helping each other prevail.