This is my first message as the interim chief executive officer. I would like to thank our Board leadership for asking me to fulfill this role while a national search is conducted for our future CEO. Judy Alperin served our community with outstanding passion, incredible vision and confidence for almost seven years and we will all be eternally grateful for her leadership.
It is truly an honor to be in this position while also serving as the chief development officer of our Federation. This month we will celebrate Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. We will light the menorah, eat latkes, play dreidel, open gifts and rejoice in the miracle of one night’s oil lasting for eight nights. We will celebrate the Maccabees victory and re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem which was truly a gift to the Jewish people.
As a child growing up in Spring Valley, New York, my three siblings and I were fortunate to live in a loving home, filled with tradition and a commitment to Judaism and, in particular, our synagogue. My parents volunteered their time in our community – my dad as our synagogue treasurer and for UJA (more commonly referred to today as Federation), and my mom as Sisterhood president and several regional board positions in Women’s League for Conservative Judaism. One Kol Nidre when I was eight years old, my dad allowed me to fold down the tab on his pledge card during our synagogue’s appeal. Getting our hands on that envelope was a thrill for my siblings and me; it was as if we were in on a big secret. As we walked home from services that night, my dad explained to us about the pledge and the importance of giving of one’s time and dollars to ensure the future of the Jewish people. I wonder if he knew then the impact this conversation would have on me.
In 1974, I was the youngest person to walk 20 miles around Rockland County, raising through sponsorships over $900 for the UJA campaign. No one thought I could do it and those last five miles were tough, but a group of people carried me, encouraging me to complete the mission. And so it began. I knew then that no matter where life took me, no matter what I chose to do for a career, I would always find time for Jewish causes. I believe that each day we have an opportunity to transform ourselves into the best, most fulfilled human beings possible.
Every day we can add to our personal Jewish development, enhancing our potential. In this community, we can find areas of common interest and partners for furthering our causes. It is up to each and every one of us to help build and sustain our communities in Greater New Haven, across the country and around the world. Our tradition commands us, through mitzvoth, to provide for our communities, give tzedakah, be hospitable and welcoming, and take care of the world. Giving and Tzedakah. Two important words and a critically important theme.
Our Federation is fortunate to be your philanthropic partner. We are a donor-centric organization, creating multiple opportunities and avenues for our donors to support the many critically important programs in our community. One such vehicle is our annual campaign, “Together we can….together we will," which is our 2023 theme.
Over the past two-plus years, our community has demonstrated how strong we are when we come together. We have proven our resilience and overcome many challenges. We were only able to do so because of you, our community members, who worked together to keep us strong. Our annual campaign dollars are secured and then deployed throughout the greater Jewish community, supporting our agencies, schools and synagogues. We affect people’s lives by helping to eliminate food insecurity, enabling access to Jewish education, caring for our Holocaust survivors and seniors in our community, and providing programs and services to facilitate connecting to one another. Federation is the convener and connector, made possible through your support of the annual campaign.
Speaking of gifts, the Federation is most fortunate to have received a wonderful gift from David and Ruthann Beckerman: The Beckerman Family PACE Challenge. PACE is an acronym for Perpetual Annual Campaign Endowment. It is a commitment to legacy giving in perpetuity. In keeping with this exciting challenge, if we succeed in raising $2 million in new and/or increased dollars to PACE over the course of the next 12 months, the Beckermans will match with $2 million of their own. We are so grateful to the Beckerman’s for this remarkable gift. We would love to discuss with you this exceptional giving opportunity. To learn more about PACE, please contact me, Lisa Stanger (Foundation executive director) or Steven Fleischman (Campaign vice President).
As you are receiving and giving gifts this Chanukah, please remember your Federation and make a gift. Every dollar makes a difference. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and may the lights of the menorah shine brightly and bring you warmth and peace throughout the season.