NECHAMA’s Board of Directors had not met in person since before the onset of COVID – a long time to not engage in face-to-face fellowship. We felt it was time to connect in person again, and started planning a Board retreat.

Before COVID, a “normal” retreat consisted of all Board members traveling to Minneapolis – NECHAMA’s birthplace and home to our headquarters – for 2 days in a hotel conference room for sessions with each other and the NECHAMA staff.

Rather than revert to our old norm, we rethought our Board retreat model and decided instead to meet in New Orleans where our Operations staff has been “in residency” since September 2021 responding to damage from Hurricane Ida. This presented many opportunities, including:

  • Being reminded individually of how NECHAMA’s work is both meaningful and humbling for volunteers who engage in it.
  • Bonding as a staff and Board team while getting dirty and sweaty in the field helping a stranger in need. This is one of the many benefits that NECHAMA offers to volunteer groups.
  • Thanking partners who have helped make our residency in Louisiana possible, and having them join us in the field to experience themselves the power and meaning of the work.
  • Meeting leaders of the Jewish community in the New Orleans area – a place we, unfortunately, find ourselves often and where we would like Board representation from.
  • Supporting the greater New Orleans Jewish community by participating in their Shabbat services and enjoying Shabbat dinner together.
  • Our retreat from September 6 to 10 was a huge success because it achieved all this and more. It was a sweaty, achy, and deeply emotional reminder of why we steward this organization.

    The High Holidays and the month of Elul preceding them are distinctive for many reasons, including because our prayers during this time are accompanied by the sound of the shofar. Interestingly, we are not commanded to BLOW the shofar, but rather to LISTEN to the shofar. One rabbi and academic administrator shared that LISTENING to the shofar is “. . . an alarm, a wake-up call. It reminds us to think about the way we behave and the kinds of things that we do, and to move us to act better.”

    LISTENING to the shofar will take on special significance for our NECHAMA team this year having just experienced our own very personal reminder of the importance of NECHAMA’s mission and work. Please let the sound of the shofar this year serve as a wake-up call and reminder for you that many people are still in great need of comfort and hope. Providing meaningful services and personal connections to strangers when they are most needed allows NECHAMA to continue spreading both comfort and hope, and to represent Jewish identity and Judaism as frontline ambassadors – often among people who have never even met a Jew.

    To all of our supporters (returning and new) who already have made a High Holiday donation, thank you! Your partnership is vital. If you have not given to NECHAMA during this season, please make supporting our worksupporting our work a priority at this time. NECHAMA accomplishes a lot, but we can do more with your financial support, which allows us to deepen and expand our reach. We also need you and your family, friends, and colleagues as volunteers.

    May this be a sweet, happy, and healthy year filled with many meaningful reminders of the connections we share.

    Shana Tova
    The Staff and Board of NECHAMA

    Dorothy Maples, Kristine Seabloom, Tracy Figueroa, Steve Matloff, Wendy Morris, Rabbi Beau Shapiro, Kyle Smith, Jeremy Wolf