Naomi K. Eisenberger, Executive Director
A Personal Note to Our Friends and Donors
In July of 1967, I was taking summer courses at Rutgers University-Newark campus. My husband was also enrolled and we traveled together to “the city” from our safe suburban apartment.
Newark, or Brick City as it’s sometimes called, was once home to a significant Jewish population made famous by Philip Roth in many of his works. By 1967, Newark had become home to a large African-American population, poverty and despair, and an often-corrupt city government. Added to this toxic mix was the shadow of the war in Vietnam and riots that popped up across the country in opposition.
I don’t recall what specific incident it was that started Newark’s rioting, but the outcome is something I will never forget. I recall block after block after block, burned and destroyed, businesses looted and 26 lives lost. The city was an armed camp and classes, for at least a few days, were canceled.
Over the past several days, I’ve struggled with two things. Watching the pain and the destruction across the country, I can’t help but compare it in many ways to 1967, and I’ve felt nothing but anguish that over the intervening years so little has changed.
My second struggle is how to articulate it to you, our friends and donors.
Since its inception 12 years ago, GPF has strived to be all about creating “good,” and not navigate through the divisive or political. We’ve kept our focus on projects that uplift individuals and communities day by day with hope, dignity and a future.
Over the past four months we’ve worked together addressing the very real outcomes of a virus that has killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S. – many the weakest among us. Since Memorial Day, we face an uglier and more existential threat – the bandage holding this country together has finally fallen off and we are a nation standing on a very precarious ledge.
So the question is, how can we as individuals and as the GPF family not just respond, but alter our lenses, conversations and sensitivities in order to do our part to heal our communities and create a new and more enlightened reality.
Several days ago, I received an email from Lia Taylor Schwartz, the executive director of our grantee organization, Connections, which curates relationships between youth in New York City’s child welfare system and volunteer mentors. In it, she wrote:
“This is not an easy topic, but it is a necessary one. Many of us who have not personally felt the pain of racism have enjoyed the privilege of not having to engage in these challenging conversations. It can be terrifying to begin the dialogue and our immediate instinct may be to avoid or become defensive. I’ve personally been doing this work of undoing institutional racism professionally for over five years and each day I learn how much more I still have to learn. I implore you to push through this discomfort and begin the long journey of listening and grappling with topics of race and inequity …”
As we look to the future – one that begins now and not some undetermined time to come – I will be taking her sound advice, not only as an individual, but also from my seat within our GPF family. We will lean on each other, learn from each other, and together seek new opportunities to build out our circle of “good.” This is on all of us.
Please reach out if you need or want to talk. I’m here. I wish you a meaningful Shabbat Shalom.