As the High Holy Days approach, and we reflect on the past year and the possibilities to come, I find myself thinking about connection, community and belonging. For me, this is central to my identity as a Jew, fuels my passion for Jewish life, and inspires me as I begin our journey together as your new CEO of the Federation.
The power of community was instilled in me at an early age by my rabbi in Natick Massachusetts, where I grew up -- the late Harold Kushner (who passed away earlier this year). He instilled in me that being Jewish means being a part of something greater than myself. It means that no matter where I am or how I express my Judaism, I belong.
I was starved for community in 1996 when my husband David and I moved our family to Milford. I found myself lurking in the Passover aisle at Stop & Shop asking who was from Milford. While no one called the police on me (thank G-d), it did lead to a meet and greet event where a small group of us invited every Jewish person we could identify. We hoped for twenty people and ended up with over a hundred people who responded to the call for community.
I have been on a listening tour over the past several months and heard that many in our community have common concerns about the times in which we are living: a society becoming more fragmented, antisemitism more pronounced, young people having trouble finding their way, loneliness a common commodity and Israel a topic of controversy. I believe that the antidote to these challenges is community – all of us together taking stock and going from strength to strength.
We must double our efforts and find new ways to connect with each other and new people in the community. We must establish networks and affinity groups where we help each other be successful in our professional and personal lives, provide mentors and internships for our young people to build their leadership potential, continue to support Israel and our Jewish families around the world, and to support all who are in need in our community.
We are grateful for the strong professional and lay leadership we have in our community, especially our President Gerry Barker, who has led our organization this year with unlimited positivity. In this new year, we welcome new faces and bid others l’hitraoat, see you again. Thank you to Amy Holtz for her authentic, passionate commitment over the past year as our interim CEO and Chief Development Officer. Amy and her husband are relocating to New Jersey to be closer to their family and we wish them all the best!
We have a strong community with many assets, starting with you. Let me thank you for already being a part of the work Federation has been doing. In the coming year, I hope you will join me as we embark on an exciting and unparalleled effort to gather, connect, support and strengthen our Jewish community. Together we can meet the challenges and opportunities of our times just as generations before us have done.
This is our moment. As we contemplate the New Year and what we hope for, I hope it will be for more connection, for the sense of belonging and purpose that comes with being a part of our Jewish community. I am excited about what we will accomplish together.
Until then, from my family to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy and sweet New Year.