CEO December Update

Samuel H. Asher CEO

Who is Protecting Whom?

Early in November, we were at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, which takes place in Israel every five years. Since we were in Jerusalem, we also participated in the Assembly of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

The Jewish Agency Assembly started with a great personal interview with the President of Israel, Shimon Peres, now 90, and a speech by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. It was a pleasure to participate in these sessions with Dorothy Wizer, past president of the JCFR. 

There was a great gathering of Partnership2gether leadership on Nov. 7, celebrating 18 years of the JAFI program. Members of our Hadera/Eiron Partnership joined us for this celebration in Jerusalem. 

On Friday morning, Nov. 8, we had an inside look at Israeli society as Jerusalemites prepared for Shabbat. We were escorted by MASA program participants as we toured the shuk and neighborhoods near Machane Yehuda and were briefed on new businesses in the area that were started with the help of a JAFI loan fund.

Dorothy Wizer with Yuliya Yesepkina

(From left) Dorothy Wizer with Yuliya Yesepkina, a MASA participant.


That evening we went down to the Kotel (Western Wall), for Kabbalat Shabbat (preparation for Shabbat), and prayers at the Western Wall. I have never seen so many people at the Kotel.  Yeshiva boys came down in big groups; many mission participants were there along with the usual groups of Orthodox and Chassidic men and women praying on each side of the mechitza (divider).

On this Shabbat there was a huge group of Israeli soldiers dancing and singing. The different colored berets they wore indicated which divisions they were from, i.e., engineers, tanks, paratroopers, etc.  There was a general with the group of young officers.  We asked who they were and where they served.  “The cream of the crop” the IDF general told us.  

These commanders were participating in an advanced leadership training course in Jerusalem. We asked if they were observant Jews and he said they were not. They just came to the Kotel for inspiration and maybe some divine guidance.

I turned to my colleague, Alan Margolies, CEO of the Jacksonville Federation, and said that it is so interesting that these officers represent the army that protects the Jews praying at the wall. 

As if on cue, one of the religious Jews praying fervently stopped his prayers and looked me in the eye. “I don’t think you have that right” he said, in perfect English.  “Maybe it’s the other way around!”  He said,  

“Or maybe the maker of the world,” I said, “will protect us all!”  

Well, I stood for many minutes pondering this question.  To this day, I don’t have an answer, but cherish the moment at the wall, one of the most sacred places in the world. Maybe all three postulates are correct. I guess it’s a matter of perspective.

I don’t know who is protecting whom, but I do know that there are those who pray and work for our demise.  As Iran makes more enriched uranium every day and the peace talks with the Palestinians falter, we can all pray that those beautiful young officers don’t get called into action.

If you would like to see a number of photographs from the trip, visit the Federation’s Facebook page. 

As always, please give me a call at (804) 545-8622 or email


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