Richmond is a hugely multicultural place. It’s one of the reasons my family and I have always felt comfortable here. Richmond’s Jewish community isn’t the biggest or the most evident in the cultural diversity of this place, but we are a part of the fabric that makes Richmond what it is.
Last month, the Jewish people worldwide celebrated Passover. At our dinner tables, we ritually re-enact the ancient escape of the Hebrew people from slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt. We teach our children – and we remind ourselves – about the human need for liberation, for safety, for compassion and for freedom from oppression and homelessness.
In the Passover story, in the biblical book of Exodus, my ancestors escaped a life of misery and disempowerment, beginning the journey to the Promised Land, a land of milk and honey.
This is my first Passover as executive director of the Richmond Animal Protection Society. Last weekend, as we recounted this story of liberation over our family “seder” – the dinner table recounting of our ancient history – I recognized parallels for the cats, dogs, rabbits and other animals we care for at RAPS.
These animals have often lived lives of misery, homelessness and hopelessness. Like the cat in this newsletter who, with her brother, was saved from scavenging around SilverCity, or the Mastiff, Roxey, who found a forever home with a loving human on an East Richmond farm, RAPS provides the means for the animals in our community to find what, for them, is the Promised Land.
In Jewish tradition, there is a powerful message that humankind has a pivotal role in making a better world. This is one of the reasons I am devoting myself to the work of RAPS. I know that animals help strengthen communities. They increase social interaction, reduce isolation among people, especially seniors, and even decrease the burden on the health care system. Most of all, every creature deserves a life of dignity, caring and compassion.
At RAPS, this is what we provide.
To the world, a stray cat or dog may be just another unkempt feral animal. With our care, that animal can become a companion that means the world to one individual or family. More importantly, the animals in our care can find a forever home that is truly a Promised Land for them.
Jewish tradition says the work of improving the world is our foremost task. For hundreds of animals, RAPS’ work is improving their world enormously. But our work is not done.
We want to create a Dog Sanctuary that, like our Cat Sanctuary, will be a place where animals unlikely to find a forever home will live amid joy and love. We want to expand our services to farm animals. And, perhaps most ambitiously, we want to create an in-agency veterinary clinic that will provide on-the-spot medical care for our animals while reducing expenses so we can do even more for greater numbers of animals.
To achieve these goals, we need the support of all the diverse people of Richmond – driven by whatever faith, moral, humanitarian or other values motivate us – to come together in something we can all agree on regardless of our heritage or differences: the compassionate care of the animals in our community.