This fall marks a special time for the Jewish people, and one of my own family’s favorite holidays of the year. At the end of September through the first week in October, Jewish communities around the world will celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, commemorating the forty years our ancestors wandered the desert without a home to call their own.
The Jewish community and Social Security share a common mission—a commitment to protecting and empowering those most vulnerable in our society.
Before the holiday begins, my family will join many in our community in building an outdoor shelter called a sukkah. These dwellings symbolize the temporary structures Jews took shelter in after fleeing slavery under the pharaoh in Egypt. Together with our families and friends, we will celebrate our liberation and freedom by conversing, eating, and even sleeping in these sukkahs.
However, while Sukkot is a joyous reminder of all that God has provided us, it is also a reminder of the many people in our country who are homeless or forced to live in temporary housing. When Sukkot comes to a close, my family will no longer dwell in the temporary shelter of our sukkah and will return to our normal lives. Many, including the elderly, do not have this luxury.
Because of this reality, The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the umbrella organization for 151 Jewish federations and 300 network communities, works tirelessly to protect and advance programs and services that make up the American safety net.
For the past 80 years, Social Security has played an integral role in creating and securing our country’s social safety net. With the help of Social Security, many low income people, workers with disabilities, and elderly citizens have been able to make ends meet and keep a roof over their heads. The Jewish community and Social Security share a common mission—a commitment to protecting and empowering those most vulnerable in our society.
Sukkot provides us with an opportunity to reflect on how lucky we are to have a permanent home, but it is crucial that we remember those who are less fortunate year round. Judaism commands us to undertake Tikkun Olam, to repair the world, a charge Social Security undertook 80 years ago and continues to dedicate itself to every day.
JFNA and local federations throughout North America commit to supporting social service programs to help those most in need, and we are fortunate to have a wonderful agency such as the Social Security Administration partner with in these efforts.
It is traditional on Sukkot and other Jewish holidays to wish one another a hearty Chag Sameach — to have a joyous festival. This year, as we celebrate Sukkot and Social Security celebrates 80 years of service, let us all strive towards a world where each of us is able to build a joyous life for one another, and where we all might be able to come inside at the end of the day into our permanent homes.
NOTE: This is part of an occasional series of guest blog posts from national faith leaders.