By Judy Alperin
I’ve been able to visit our historic homeland Israel many times, beginning when I was 16 years old with BBYO. As we are about to celebrate Israel’s 69th birthday, there is much to be proud of, and yet still so much that can be divisive. Differing opinions is the Jewish way—since the early days of Hillel and Shammai, our people have debated the issues and found ways to peaceably agree to disagree. This example was part of the inspiration behind our Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council’s Left vs. Right- The Battle for Israel’s Soul, held at Temple Beth Tikvah in Madison, where two knowledgeable and passionate journalists on opposing sides, shared their insights, argued their perspective and embraced one another as kinsman.
As our community continues to determine how to best serve the Greater New Haven Jewish community, we intend to build on this example of respectful and informed discussion. An emailed survey asked if a community center was integral to a strong Jewish community and, if so, where such a center should be located. Eight hundred people responded to the survey. This was followed by a Jewish Community Town Hall where members of the community expressed their thoughts in person on April 26.
While the timeline for decision-making is compressed, we are confident that the process will be built upon over time and that there will be ample opportunity to adjust and strengthen our approach. The input sought by the survey and town hall is essential to inform the work of two task forces who have been considering options regarding current operations at 360 Amity Road. Those task forces will make presentations to a broader committee on May 10, and then conclusions will be recommended to a special meeting of the Jewish Federation and JCC boards of directors on May 17.
As we worked after the fire to assess and handle the needs of the building, our community also confronted challenges to our security. We were the victim of two telephonic threats during the spate of threats against Jewish communities across North America. We were heartened that the commitment to emergency preparedness that ensured no injury or loss of life during the fire also provided for proper response by our staff to handle the calls and evacuations with minimum disruption. Working closely with law enforcement at the local level with Woodbridge Fire and Police, on through the Connecticut State Police Bomb Squad, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, ADL, the Jewish Community Centers Association and the Jewish Federations of North America’s Secure Community Network (SCN), we receive real-time updates and warnings to enable anticipatory response. When notice of threats in other communities is received, our staff is made aware and preemptive sweeps for devices are conducted in our facilities. Special trainings for all Jewish community agencies and congregations will continue.
The recent training run by the FBI focused on active-shooter preparedness. Community security remains a top priority.
This issue brings us closer to the conclusion of the program year. That also means the conclusion of the Annual Campaign is drawing near. The Annual Campaign is the backbone of our community. It is what enables our Jewish Federation to work on your behalf each and every day—responding to crisis wherever they erupt— overseas in war torn Ukraine or anti-Semitism riddled France, and right here at home when fires break out in our JCC. The Annual Campaign is at work building community, strengthening Jewish education, providing support for the needy and vulnerable and planning for our future. But the campaign is only as strong as each individual who supports it. This issue features our growing donor honor roll. We thank each person who has generously pledged their support this year and encourage you to add your name to the list if you haven’t had a chance to do so. There’s still time to make your increased commitment. In closing, I want to reiterate that my door is open, my email inbox is waiting and I am always just a phone call away. If you have questions, ask. If you want to share your opinion, reach out. Call (203) 387-2424, ext.231, email email@example.com or stop by 1764 Litchfield Turnpike, Woodbridge.