Sydney's Annual Meeting Remarks

 
 

  

 

Top 10 Reasons I'm  Retiring

 

10.  My assistant, Hilary, is leaving  for North Carolina

9.     I'm considering running on the Republican ticket for President. 

 Why not? Everyone else seems to be doing it.

8.     Marketing said I can't use my old photo any longer

7.      I really want to sleep more than 4 hours a night

6.      I've got nothing more to write about in my Friday emails

5.      I refuse to learn how to change the toner on my computer

4.      I've decided to take up yoga

3.      I need the time to memorize the names and birthdates of my 

         18 grandchildren in order

2.      I've been invited to join a golf foursome with David Letterman, Jon 

         Stewart and Bob Schieffer.

1.     After almost 30 years, it's time for a change.

 

Like Letterman, my top ten reasons for retiring in 2016 are a bit self-mocking, mischievous and meant to be comical so I can avoid being as sentimental, emotional, and as weepy as I feel.

 

Last June, at the annual meeting of the Federation, I announced my intention to retire in June, 2016. After serving almost 30 years at the Federation, "yomam v'laila", day and often deep into the night, I maintain the same passion and sense of commitment as the first time I walked into the office on Whalley Avenue in July 1988. I believe in the Jewish enterprise.

 

As Steve Jobs once said: "The only way to do great work is to love what you do."  And I have loved my time working for this Jewish community and serving the Jewish people. Over the course of my tenure at the Federation - first as Principal of MAKOM, the community Hebrew High School, then as the Director of the Department of Jewish Education, later the Executive Director of the Federation and, now, as the CEO of the merged Federation and JCC,  my personal, professional, intellectual and spiritual lives have been fully integrated into a perfect harmony. I have been so fortunate.

 

Fortunate to have worked with Presidents from Alvin GreenbergLeslie ZackinJoel KarpMark SklarzDon Hendel and now Stephanie Wain. Blessed to have a dedicated and hardworking staff - from ZoraidaChris, and Nelson , who toil without being properly acknowledged; to Shelley GansScott Cohen and Lisa Stanger who frankly aren't acknowledged nearly enough.  And everyone on staff. Will you all please stand so you can be recognized and thanked. And an extra round of applause forHilary Goldberg who will be moving to North Carolina so her daughterJenna can attend the prestigious American Hebrew Academy.

 

I am privileged  to represent our children, our elderly, our agencies, our synagogues, and the Jews of Greater New Haven from Milford to Madison, from Cheshire to Chester, and all points in between.

 

This is the community where I was born, the community where I raised my 6 children, the community I believe in, sometimes more than it believes in itself, the community I love.

 

I love this community and I believe that it's only in the kehilla, in the sacredness of the community, that we ever met challenges of the past and can meet the significant challenges of the future.


Our community with its volunteerism, generosity and dedication allows us the rare prospect to vision, to shape and to implement a stronger, better, more inclusive synergy.  We can take enormous  pride in our accomplishments and put our creativity, energy  and commitment into planning and implementing a revitalized Jewish New Haven. 

 

Tonight we have expressed our gratitude to leaders and philanthropists like Marcia and Stanley Reiter and David Beckerman.   Their contributions to our community are so enormous and so deeply appreciated. I am more than honored to call them friends and to have this moment to thank them publicly in words insufficient but heartfelt. I want to recognize also two people from our community who have stepped up to take Statewide leadership roles: Allan Hillman will shortly become the Chairperson of JFACT; and Barbara Green Orell will become the chair of SNEC, the Southern New England Consortium, which collaborates with our Partnership 2000 communities,  Afula and Gilboa, in Israel.

 

And tonight you have seen the future.. what Disney calls Tomorrowland - a future where things are looking up.  Even with George Clooney in it, the movie, despite its celebration of  joy, imagination and optimism, hasn't been a box office success.  But our young people, the 8th grade students you have seen who traveled to Israel; Pite award winners, Tova Benson-Tilsen and Noa Shapiro-Franklin, the leaders of USY; the young adults going on Birthright Israel;  Natalie Mangioncalda, who won a fellowship to work at an Arab-Jewish Community Center in Haifa; or go on March of the Living as Emily Cooper did this spring , will change the world.  


 

Our young people, like Kate and Bill Lee's daughter Alexa, choose to work on social service projects in New Orleans with Avodah,  they travel with the American Jewish World Service, or volunteer in Nepal with Tevel b'Tzedek ,as Joe and Reva Fleischman's daughter Yonina did for 6 months.  Eisner Community Service award winners, Steve Fleischmanand Evan Wyner,  and the five Wexner fellows, Chesky HoltzbergScott HurwitzDena Schilman-GreenSharon Hasbani and Lauren Hass, Harry Lender Young Leadership Award winners all, are our future leaders. 

 

In this week's parasha, the 12 leaders who went into Canaan to spy out the land, come back and report to Moses.  Ten of them say: "The land is inhabited by giants, men of great measure. We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so must we have looked to them." This is the language of fear, the language of loss of fortitude, courage, pessimism, lack of confidence. This is the language of demoralization in the face of challenge. All except for Caleb and Joshua. Only they said: Let us by all means go up..for we can surely do it."

 

These young leaders are our Calebs and Joshuas. They will lead with resolve, with creativity, with pride and optimism.

 

Paraphrasing the words of Mahatma Gandhi: They are the change we want to see in our community. This is no bumper sticker or slogan on a coffee mug. They will convert our aspirations into reality. Before they repair the world through tikkun olam, they will work on remaking themselves and we will remake ourselves alongside them. Let us by all means go up for we can do it.

 

Now we must work together not just to choose our next leader but for each of us to consider how we can help develop sites of true creativity, profound meaning and vibrant connectivity. We are poised for success; we have strong rabbinic leadership and the best group of executive directors at our agencies that  I have ever seen. Thank you so much Mark Garilli and Vivian KantrowJonathan Garfinkle and your staff; Rabbi FrancisRabbi Mendy Hecht and Rabbi Sheya HechtDr. Melanie Waynik and her educators,Ruth Ann Ornstein and the counselors at Camp Laurelwood.  You carry out the holy work every day  andeverywhere  and nurture a community of caring, social justice, respect and education. You transform our Jewish ethics and our dollars into action. 

 

The Federation system remains a potent force in Jewish life because we help Jews come together and create a big impact with innovation. I announce tonight that we will be improving the way we communicate with you, our agencies,  and our synagogues with a redesigned and revitalized Shalom New Haven. Jennifer Gelband and the marketing team, thank you for the first-rate Annual Report. It looks gorgeous and it reflects this year's many successes.  We have made significant progress with our KESHER initiative between our synagogues and the Federation, hired Stacey Battat, had two very inspiring community meetings and we're already hard at work planning for joint community programs. I am especially gratified to announce that three of our agencies, SCHA, Ezra and JFS will be working together and to hire a social worker to be present in our two day schools starting in the fall as a result of some very passionate voices around the P&A table, so ably chaired by Gerry Barker.

 

And we don't just do this locally. We do it in Paris, where Caryl Kligfeldand I met with a very anxious French Jewry; we saw what the JDC does in Morocco for the remnant of Jews who remain there; we support the humanitarian aid in the Ukraine and the thousands who want to make aliya to Israel. 

 

Our tradition's sense of responsibility for one another and for repairing the world is as old as our history and as bright as what lies before us. There is a sacred past and the fulfillment of  glorious promise ahead. The Federation's mission is to mobilize our enormous intellectual, human and financial resources in the service of the Jewish people.  We are notgrasshoppers. Let us by all means go up.

 

Let's stop waiting for the event that will catalyze commitment  to fundamental change; let's join together NOW to grasp the potential of our Jewish community.  We can do it!

 

The President of the Federation, Dr. Stephanie Wain, has asked Dr. Norman Ravski, who has agreed to follow her as President, to chair a search committee. They have put together a strong, thoughtful group of people who represent the many facets of our community. I feel confident that they will work diligently to find just the right person to be your next CEO of the Federation. 

 

I thank you all for your friendship, advice, support and dedication to our joint endeavor. I have treasured every single day and endeavored to serve our community with all my heart, with all my soul and all my might.

 

The French poet and Nobel laureate, Anatole France, wrote: "To accomplish great things we must not only act but also dream, not only plan but also believe.

 

I am a believer. I believe in being faithful to our past, dedicated to the present, and committed to a brilliant future.

 

If we think that our future is not as bright as the past, if we falter and become disillusioned, remember, please,  one of my favorite theater experiences.  Peter Pan. Tinkerbell's light is dimming; Peter fears the fairy is dying.  And in theater language, he "breaks the fourth wall".  Pan comes to the apron of the stage and speaks to the audience: "Dear Tink's light is growing faint. Do you believe, oh please, please, believe?   Clap if you believe.  Clap if you believe. Clap if you believe."   

 

And believe in yourselves. We are the eternal light. 


 

TO SEE PHOTOS FROM THE ANNUAL MEETING, CLICK HERE.

 

B'shalom,

  syd sig                          

Sydney A. Perry                             

CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven
203-387-2424 x302