An Excerpt from Mark Wilf's Final Community Message

Mark Wilf wraps up his tenure as the chair of the Jewish Federations of North America on Monday. Below, I bring you an excerpt of his final message to our communities. Mark, I thank you for your tremendous leadership and wish you the best as you move on to your next role as the chair of the board of governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel. May you go from strength to strength.

Many of you know that my favorite expression is “Am Yisrael Chai!” Why do I love this expression so much? There are several reasons.

I love the expression Am Yisrael Chai! because it expresses our inherent optimism – that despite numerous challenges and crises, our Jewish community lives, and thrives, and flourishes. After these years as your chair, I am more optimistic than ever about the future of our community.

I love Am Yisrael Chai! also because it includes the name “Israel” – the name G-d gave to Jacob after Jacob wrestled with the angel and prevailed. It is a reminder of our endurance and our strength, it is the name on so many of our houses of worship, and it is the name we gave to our sovereign state when it was reborn in 1948.

But most importantly, I love Am Yisrael Chai! because of the word Am. If we were trying to say that the State of Israel will live, we would speak of Medinat Yisrael. If we wanted to declare that the land of Israel will live, we would speak of Eretz Yisrael. 

Instead, we declare that it is Am Yisrael – the entire people of Israel – that lives. Our beloved Jewish people, wherever we are in the world, whatever we believe, however we practice our faith – this beautiful, diverse, creative Jewish people - lives!

Our Jewish Federation system plays no small part in the fulfillment of this declaration. Whether it is caring for those in need, or educating our children, or saving Jews from danger and bringing tens of thousands each year to Israel, we are at the very center of the communal infrastructure that builds and sustains flourishing Jewish life. We are Am Yisrael. We are the people that the Jewish community turns to in good times and bad, to turn challenge into opportunity, and to lead with vision and courage. This we have done, time and again.

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