Hold together now. Times are tough. In two years, we'll be laughing about it. The market will be up, real estate prices will be rising again, and people will be finding great jobs.

The question is, will the Jewish community come out unscathed—or will we wake up one morning to discover we've got back our jobs and our money, but there's no kosher restaurants left where we can celebrate that, our children's schools have closed down, and our community is left desolate?

I had no money to give him, no one to turn him to and no clue about social services in his townThat depends on what kind of community we are. On whether we lend a hand only when we feel secure, or even when we are tottering ourselves. On whether we look just to save our own skin when the fire is burning, or do we look out for one another as well. On whether it's every family for itself, or we are all really one family and we hold together no matter what when the world is falling apart.

When this whole crunch started, I met with one of its more unfortunate victims, promising I would try to help him. I paid for the lunch—he ordered a hamburger and fries—and sat there listening to his woes. Problem was, I had no money to give him, no one to turn him to and no clue about social services in his town. I felt physical pain.

But I had to help somehow. So, I dug into my own experience of past financial crisis and I asked, "What are your long term goals? You're almost fifty. What do you want to be doing at fifty-five?"

It sounded crazy to him—how is any of this going to help him now?--but eventually I got him talking about it. He had some training in electrical wiring. He could finish that off and get a better job. There were other opportunities, but he had turned them all down because, well, he had this crisis to deal with.

We kept focused. We worked out a plan to get him where he wanted to be—simple, and sublimely doable. That solved, we went back to his "current crisis." And, miracle of miracles, he had solutions to every last problem.

How did I know? Because I had been through the same conundrum. I had seen first hand that the most damaging approach a person could take to life was to spend 24/7 putting out the fires. When things are going good, you can survive without a long term strategy. It's when you're speeding downhill at 120 that you better have a very clear idea of where you want to get to.

That was true for me, it was true for him, and it's true for our community as a whole.

Decades ago, an imaginative Jewish microbiologist named Dr. Velvl Green told a story of a world where some irresponsible nuclear testing has initiated a meltdown of the polar cap. The entire world has three weeks before all inhabitable land will be submerged by the oceans. Muslims gather in Mecca, Catholics in Rome, and atheists just party. Meanwhile, Jews gather to hear the wise words of a revered rabbi. After concluding the afternoon prayer, the rabbi turns to the microphones and announces, "Jews! We have three weeks to learn how to live under water!"

can we huddle together while the storm rages outside?We already know how to live under water, under fire, on the road and anywhere else. We have inexhaustible experience at all those things. The question now is, can we huddle together while the storm rages outside? Can we preserve all that we have built together by making sacrifices to help the other guy, to help him keep kosher and his kids in a Jewish school when he doesn't have a job? Can we consolidate forces and amalgamate duplicate institutions by overcoming differences? Can we learn to buy low and invest in our fellow Jew so that we can reap the profits in the near future of a vibrant community with everyone still here and going strong?

If we can, we will not just survive. We will be stronger than ever.