Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, named by Talk magazine as one of the 50 best speakers in the United States, will be the keynote speaker at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Campaign Kickoff event on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at Congregation Anshei Israel at 7:15 p.m.
The author of “Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History,” the most widely selling book on Judaism of the past 20 years, Telushkin is considered one of the leading figures of modern day Judaism.
Among his many other works are the first two volumes of a planned three volume “A Code of Jewish Ethics,” (Volume One was the winner of the 2006 National Jewish Book Award) and “Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews.”
His newest book, “Hillel: If Not Now, When?” takes a fresh look at one of the greatest Jewish sages, a figure of prophetic importance to today’s world.
Hillel’s most famous teaching was “What is hateful unto you, do not do unto your neighbor. That is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. Now, go and study,” offered to a gentile seeking conversion. Telushkin believes that today, when religiosity is often equated with ritual observance alone, when few Jews seem concerned with bringing Jewish teachings into the world, and when more than 40 percent of Jews intermarry, Judaism needs the openness that Hillel championed 2,000 years ago.
The Nov. 17 event will launch the 2011 Federation Campaign, which raises funds on behalf of the Federation’s local beneficiary agencies, as well as the Jewish Federations of North America, which coordinates lifesaving humanitarian efforts for Jews and non-Jews in Israel and 60 countries around the world.
“Now more than ever, we are being asked to do more with less,” emphasizes 2011 Federation Campaign Chair Kathryn Unger. “Our community will strive to set the standard and pledge support to meet the increasing needs of our Federation programs and beneficiary agencies that serve Southern Arizona, Israel, and all over the world.”
The kick-off will also include a community-wide introduction to the Local Emergency Assistance Fund (LEAF), which allows those who increase their pledge to the Federation campaign to designate a portion of their increased commitment to the LEAF campaign.
“There are many Jews right here in our community in desperate need and the request for assistance has increased fourfold since 2008. Over 800 families, representing every zip code in our region, received case management assistance due to financial distress and 250 of them received emergency cash grants from Jewish Family & Children’s Services, with funding coming fully from the Federation,” said JFSA President and CEO Stuart Mellan.