8.14.20 CEO Letter

By Jenn Ross

As I was seeking the right words to begin my column, my hero Dr. Rachel Levine spoke them in her opening remarks in the July 28 Department of Health press conference in response to the ongoing transphobic attacks she has been experiencing: “I have no room in my heart for hatred, and frankly, I do not have time for intolerance.”

We are living in an incredibly challenging time with ongoing public health and financial crises.  Before COVID was ever diagnosed, the polarization was already deafening. It is no wonder that we have seen escalations in hatred and negativity towards all others, be it anti-Semitism, racism, Islamaphobia, isolationism, misogyny, homophobia, and all sorts of other bigotries- the list is too long and painful to name.

When our “news” is limited to one source, quick sound-bites, and shocking photos, none of which is fact-checked, it is no wonder that many people are full of mistrust and anger and unwilling to build connections and relationship with people unlike themselves.  It is overwhelming and demoralizing listening to people, including friends and neighbors, cut each other apart on social media and in news feed comments and directly to one another.

In order for us to work toward the hopeful future I’ve written about in past columns, we need to commit to being part of the solution. Instead of focusing on the bad actions of a few individuals and discounting everyone from different racial, religious, national, or other commonality, now is the time to build connections with others suffering from those communities and lifting them up.  We are all striving to stay healthy and survive this disease and deal with other actual and potential challenges and will be more successful in partnership than by creating new enemies.

There are numerous safe ways to learn the facts about current events and about people unlike you. Our national association Jewish Council for Public Affairs has compiled a resource page of their own informative recorded webinars and numerous resources from other partners such as ADL.  You can explore that here: https://www.jewishpublicaffairs.org/past-jcpa-and-partner-webinars/.  I have learned a wealth of balanced and legitimate information from these sources and encourage you to explore them.

My pandemic life has been enriched by my ongoing learning and through my wonderful relationships within the Jewish community and the entire JCC family and my friends from my interfaith and civic work.  Although my column is darker than many, I still remain hopeful. I just needed to vocalize a concern that has been troubling me.  I want to end on a positive note however.  I opened my column with one hero and will close with another, Rep. John Lewis, z’l:


"You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone — any person or any force — dampen, dim or diminish your light … Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won."

― Lewis on being human in Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America


I hope I am always a light to you as you are to me.  Please let me know how I can help guide you through these times and I’d love to hear how you would like to be part of the solution. You can reach me at j.ross@jewishfedhbg.org or 717-236-9555 x3104.