Historic Torah Returns to Europe - United Hub
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Historic Torah returns to Europe

By The Hub team, October 18, 2017

We connected the past and the future, and two Jewish congregations 6,000 miles apart, by helping a rabbi and a cantor from the San Francisco Bay Area transport a 200-year-old Torah scroll, a refugee from the Holocaust, back to its home temple in the Czech Republic on October 17.

The Torah has been at the Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, just south of San Francisco International Airport, since 1970. It came from a synagogue from a village called Olomouc in the Czech Republic. Before and during World War II, Torahs and other artifacts were routinely confiscated or destroyed by the occupying Nazis, but this Torah and hundreds of others were hidden or taken out of Nazi territory for safekeeping.

The rabbi with the Torah scroll in the gate area of the airport.

The Olomouc Torah arrived in Foster City in 1970s, and as the Jewish community in Olomouc grew again, they reached out to the California congregation.

"They asked us if we could help restore this scroll to kosher status and bring it back to its home," said Rabbi Corey Helfand of the Peninsula Sinai Congregation. Corey was accompanied on his flight to Frankfurt, Germany on Tuesday by Cantor Doron Shapira, who has a personal connection with the scrolls. His in-laws were among the Jews who escaped Olomouc, and they previously worshipped at the Olomouc synagogue.

The Peninsula Sinai Congregation has nearly completed restoring the Torah over the past several years – the final work will be done in Olomouc, and the scroll returned to its home synagogue during ceremonies planned for later this month.

Michael Hayat, an IT Senior Manager based in San Francisco, is a member of the Foster City congregation and worked with San Francisco Airport and United representatives to make sure the Torah would receive special handling on the United leg of the journey to Frankfurt, before heading to its final destination in Prague.

The Torah scroll with United staff, the rabbi and the cantor on the flight to Frankfurt

Our Customer Service staff provided early boarding and a secure spot for the special carry-on, as well as arranged for the rabbi and cantor to have an empty seat between them, which was assigned to the Torah. It even got its own boarding pass. During the flight, the pilots and flight attendants checked on them regularly to make sure they had a comfortable flight. We worked with the TSA to make sure the scroll could get through security with no issues, and with Lufthansa, to ensure a smooth connection in Frankfurt.

"I am overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude for how everyone came together to make this a special flight for them," Michael said. "The United family came together and exceeded all our expectations."

The ABC-TV affiliate in San Francisco covered the event; watch their coverage here.

Shaping an inclusive future with Special Olympics

By The Hub team, July 24, 2020

If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.

Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.

Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.

"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."

Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.

"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.

In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.

And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast The Special Chronicles.

United works with partners to send food to USDA food bank

By The Hub team, July 23, 2020

In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.

"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."

United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.

Jessica Kimbrough named Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

By The Hub team, July 10, 2020

Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.

Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.

In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.

"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."

As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.

Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.

Jessica's new role is effective immediately.

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