by Judy Alperin
CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven
When I was a little girl, we would go to Aunt Carol’s house for Rosh Hashanah dinner. We weren’t related by blood, but our families were the best of friends and none of us had relatives in Cherry Hill. We celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Passover together every year and our holiday dinners and Seders were filled with the best memories of my childhood.
As I think back to Aunt Carol’s family room with the furniture swapped out in favor of a large T-shaped table outfitted with the best china and crystal along with the incredible aromas of Aunt Carol’s famous delicacies, including the taygelach that my father would croon on about endlessly, I cannot help but picture the huge Shofar (ram’s horn) splayed across the mantle.
The Shofar has been sounded for millennia to stir our people to action and to awake us from our slumber. Today, the Shofar is sounded both as a physical and metaphorical call to action; to stir our souls, to propel us to do the work that we must do each year at these High Holy Days.
We are awakened and called to act communally as well as individually. As our community emerged from the challenging times after the fire, our leaders knew that it would be important to take stock of our community to determine our goals and priorities that will define us for the short-term future of the next five to seven years. We have and continue to experience great change and shifts in demography, identity, practice and experience in our Jewish community.
A Strategic Visioning Process has been convened by the Jewish Federation Board of Directors, under the leadership of immediate past president Dr. Norman Ravski that will seek your input and guidance over much of the 2018- 19 program year. There will be many opportunities to engage in discussion about community prioritiesss and needs, including focus groups, town halls and a community survey.
Perhaps you recall that our community commissioned a demographic study in 2010. That study was conducted by Dr. Ira Sheskin, a preeminent Jewish community demographer. Because Dr. Sheskin has worked in so many Jewish communities and has compiled the data at JewishDataBank.org, his research into current trends and knowledge regarding our geography and demographic shifts continues to be important. The Jewish Federation and The Towers, also conducting a strategic planning process, have joined to bring Dr. Sheskin back to our community September 27-28 to update and enlighten us as we jump-start both processes.
As we ready to ask ourselves the questions that provide insight into who we are and where we are going communally, we are simultaneously asking ourselves those same questions individually. It is my prayer that both our communal and personal selves find meaning, purpose and the answers that we seek to sustain the future. May the Shofar sound mightily and stir our souls.
Shanah tovah u’metukah