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The Days Are Long, But the Years Are So Short | Shabbat Shalom 22 Elul 5783 שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם

By Doron Krakow

The Days Are Long, But the Years Are So Short

Late last month my wife and I became grandparents. Of course, it feels very strange. We can’t possibly be old enough for that. And yet, there was our boy, our son Aaron, holding his boy in his arms, his beautiful wife, Zoe, looking on. His wife. When did he get old enough to be married? Still, it looked right. I think he was born to be a dad—and she a mom. I guess that means we’ll have to get used to the idea that we’re in the third generation now. It’s quite a reality check, but when we held our grandson—when we peered into his perfect face and his beautiful eyes—our hearts overflowed. We are enormously blessed.

In the little more than two weeks since, I have found myself thinking a lot about what it all means. For as long as I can remember, my life has largely revolved around two things—being a husband and father and pursuing my work in the Jewish community. We raised three remarkable sons. We loved and nurtured them. We saw them through school, sports, and all those after-school activities. We sent them off to Young Judaea summer camp, just as our parents had done, and when the time came, to Israel for a gap-year program after high school. They came of age as proud Jews and Zionists. Along the way, there was homework, friendships, and rivalries, romance, and heartbreak. They grew into the young men we’d hoped they’d become—and now each is charting his own course. When did that happen?

Most of my adult life I have had the good fortune to work in the professional Jewish community. More than good fortune really, it has been and continues to be a privilege. I have been able to make my living while endeavoring to contribute something to our unfolding story—the continuing journey of the Jewish people. I served as national director of Young Judaea, my youth movement, and had a hand in shaping the experiential education of a generation of future Jewish and Zionist leaders. I served as quarterback of the Israel and Overseas unit at what is today Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), a chapter that provided a monumental education about the wider Jewish world and the extraordinary dedication of Jewish leaders in cities and towns from coast to coast. I represented Ben-Gurion University of the Negev here in the United States and spent a decade working to build a cadre of American Jewish leaders committed to the continuing fulfilment of David Ben-Gurion’s dream.

Today, it is my great honor to lead JCC Association of North America and help guide its work as part of an unrivalled network of Jewish institutions that forms the largest and most diverse platform for Jewish community engagement on this continent, while concurrently serving as the most important gateway to community relations with friends and neighbors beyond the Jewish community. I was drawn to this work because this movement is the single best opportunity we have here in North America to become more than what we are. The pursuit of greater Jewish community and more vibrant Jewish life increasingly animates us because the true measure of our success will be the strength of what we leave behind when the torch is passed.

Family always seemed to be about “today,” while the work, building upon “yesterday,” was all about “tomorrow.” Young Judaea, the Federation system, Ben-Gurion University, the JCC Movement. Their strength and power lie in the legacy they inherited from those who came before—all the gifts of Jewish history, the saga of our people across 4,000 years. And ours? Ours lie in the Jewish world we will bequeath to those who come after us—to the next generation and all those that follow.

Which brings me back to becoming a grandfather.

Nine days ago, at his brit milah (his bris), which took place in Jerusalem in sight of the Old City walls, my grandson was given the name David, after my father. My dad had come to Israel in late 1948 to fight in the War of Independence. He had been a member and leader of Betar, the Zionist youth movement inspired by Zev Jabotinsky, and over the course of nine months in the newborn Jewish state, he gave his all to ensure its survival before returning to the United States to tend to his ailing parents and start a family of his own. An attorney by training, he spent his career in civil service and raised five children, each of whom became a proud and dedicated Jew and Zionist in their own right.

My dad died in 2019 at the age of 92, knowing that his grandson, Aaron, having made aliyah several months prior, had been inducted into the Israel Defense Forces. Less than five years later, as Israel celebrates its 75th anniversary, his namesake begins a new life—a new generation. This beautiful little boy is a part of my dad’s legacy—and part of mine.

That’s what I discovered upon becoming a grandfather. For the first time I think I understand my link in the chain. It’s a strange thing to have your eyes opened to something so remarkable—to see the future in the eyes of your children’s children. I think back upon nearly three decades as a parent and smile. The days often seemed so long. But the years? They just flew by.

My heart is overflowing. With gratitude to my dad and my mom, who celebrated her 93rd birthday on Monday. To my wife, Janet, with whom I have shared so many blessings as parents and now as grandparents. To Aaron and Zoe, for the life they have built and for the new one just begun. As for my grandson, David Krakow:

יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ יְהֹוָ֖ה וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ:
פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ: יָאֵ֨ר יְהֹוָ֧ה
שָׁלֽוֹם יִשָּׂ֨א יְהֹוָ֤ה פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖

May God bless you and guard you.
May God shine God’s countenance upon you and be gracious to you.
May God turn God’s countenance toward you and grant you peace.

Shabbat Shalom | שבת שלום

Doron Krakow
President and CEO
JCC Association of North America

On September 6, 1948, the Tel Aviv Municipal Council announced that a major thoroughfare would be named LaGuardia Street in honor of former New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who, in 1946, served as the second director general of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. LaGuardia, whose mother was of prominent Italian Jewish lineage, was an outspoken supporter of the Zionist cause and a fierce critic of Nazi Germany. During the war, his sister, Gemma LaGuardia Gluck, and her husband were living in Budapest when Nazi troops stormed the city in 1944. The Gestapo arrested her as a political prisoner because she was LaGuardia’s sister. She was transferred from Mauthausen to the notorious women’s concentration camp at Ravensbruck, where she was among the few to survive the war.

Today, anyone heading into Tel Aviv on Highway 20 can’t miss the exit sign for LaGuardia Street.

And that’s the way it was…

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