What Moves You as a Jew!

In the past few weeks, I have had so many moments that were engaging, prideful, joyful, exciting, humbling, and solemn. They all moved me. I wanted to share some of them with you and I hope you will share your special moments with me and others.

I attended a very compelling lecture and discussion at Temple Beth David which featured a presentation by Judy Kopman-Fried, the daughter of holocaust survivors, and Claudia Kiesinger, the granddaughter of Nazi perpetrators. I was spellbound by Judy’s remarkable story and the vivid recollections of her parents. And listening to Claudia explain why she speaks out against antisemitism was uplifting.

I happened to read the Temple B’nai Jacob website and newsletter and was thrilled to see the large number of donations and remembrances. As Sydney Perry said to me over 25 years ago, “strong temples make for a strong federation!”

We have had a number of meetings recently of your Executive Committee, your Federation Board of Directors, the Foundation Board, the Finance Committee, the new Jewish Senior Services and Engagement Committee. I am deeply moved by the number of people who give of their time and money to assure the success of your Federation. This is a testament to our wonderful community!

I am thrilled to see the upcoming events recognizing members of our community—the Ezra Gala honoring Evan Wyner, Sydney Perry and Joshua Edelglass on May 7, and the Jewish Family Service Spring Celebration honoring Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Linda Caplan, and Lisa Stanger. I encourage you to attend either one or both of these inspiring and entertaining events. If you can make either or both of these, that would be wonderful.

I was so pleased at the outpouring of faith and civic leaders at the news conference, held on the New Haven Green on the day of our first Passover seder, denouncing antisemitism. In addition to myself, many dignitaries — including Mayor Justin Elicker of New Haven, Mayor Lauren Garrett of Hamden, and Rabbi Brian Immerman of Congregation Mishkan Israel all spoke eloquently denouncing all types of hate.

Likewise, It was wonderful to join many of our legislators and state treasurer Erick Russell at the Legislative Breakfast hosted by the JCRC and chaired by Milton Wallack, and held at the Towers.

I was excited to hear from Scott Cohen and David Sirowich that the JCC is back to all-time record levels of participation, with even more growth expected! In addition, I was glad to receive a reminder from the Jewish Cemetery Association about their annual campaign. Caring for our departed is a cornerstone of Jewish living.

I am grateful to Ken Sandberg for taking on leadership of a new Jewish Senior Services and Engagement Committee to enhance the lives of our over-65-yearold members.

I am so thankful to all of you who contribute to our annual campaign, legacy and Pace funds. And I am proud to report that when I mention membership in Federation to those who don’t participate, everyone has told me they will be happy to provide support and are glad to be asked!

It was a joy to participate on the Israel trip along with the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford. The leadership exhibited by Amy Holtz and Robyn Teplitzky, along with their tireless efforts to assure everyone was safe and cared for, is a testament to their concern for others. The camaraderie and shared interests regarding all things Jewish was inspiring… and visiting many places funded by all of you, particularly the Shalva Center in Jerusalem, a world renowned center for children with disabilities, was something we all can be proud of.

Lastly, I would like to share something that even three weeks later brings a warm smile to my face. After the Israel trip, my daughter Alivia and I went to Egypt for 36 hours. Upon leaving the Cairo Museum, our guide asked us after leaving the Cairo Museum what our religion was. We told him we were Jewish and we could tell that both he, a Christian, and our Muslim driver, were a little surprised. Our guide told us that he knew a Jewish person from a previous tour and we had very pleasant conversation. While having lunch overlooking the Pyramids (before our visit to the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza), Alivia noticed a person whose back was bright red and walked over to offer the person sunscreen. Then Alivia made me move my seat so I wasn’t sitting in the bright sun. Alivia saw some stray dogs and took all the food from her plate and carried it to feed the dogs. Alivia came back with tears in her eyes and the guide asked if she was okay. Alivia said yes but it broke her heart to see these underfed dogs. Alivia then asked for my food and took a bottle of water and went back to tend to the dogs. At this point, our guide turned to me and said- “I think I understand better now what Jewish means.” “Jewish”, he told me, “means caring about others more than you care about yourself.” And with that comment, I was a very proud Jew… and an even prouder father!

Wishing you all a wonderful spring and continuing  hope for peace and health, Gerry Barker President Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven

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