Last night, we celebrated a very full year together as a Jewish community and the many accomplishments of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and our partners locally, nationally, in Israel, and around the world! It is my honor to give a very special thank you to our Board of Trustees members who served in 2022, and to welcome the new Board elected at last night’s Annual Meeting!
This week’s parsha, Vayeishev, includes Jacob and his sons, with themes of sibling dynamics and jealousy. While not directly related to the themes of tonight’s Annual Meeting, I see a strong connection to a topic on my mind, and probably many of your minds as well: abundance versus scarcity. The scarcity mindset, like that of Jacob’s brothers, assumes that there is only so much to go around; so much love, so much attention, and perhaps so much financial fortune. When we view the world from this lens, it can be stressful and frustrating, leading to jealousy about another’s good fortune. In the context of our Jewish community, such a perspective could lead someone to be concerned when another Jewish organization is successful, assuming that another’s success will lead to a decrease in your success.
Let’s reverse that thinking. In an abundance mindset, we know that there is more than enough love, attention, and support for all of our organizations and causes. When one of our Jewish community agencies is experiencing growth and success, we all benefit. Together, we continue to build an incredible network of organizations, groups, philanthropists, volunteers, professionals, and leaders and supporters of all kinds, working together in so many ways.
Last night, we came together to celebrate our community, all of us in this region, the United States, Israel and around the world, and the diverse fabric of the Jewish community here in Western Massachusetts, where the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts has played a key role for the past 96 years.
While I came here to Longmeadow only 12 years ago, I consider myself a product of this community. I have learned from and been inspired by all of you, the leaders, community, and donors who make all of our Jewish communal work possible. In particular, I have spent time as an employee with Sinai Temple, Temple Beth El, the J, Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy, Heritage Academy, and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. I have also had the pleasure and privilege of working closely with professionals and volunteers from all of the Federation’s constituent and partner agencies. I believe in this community and I know that together we will continue to grow and shift to meet our community’s needs in ways that could not have been imagined nearly a century ago when this organization’s work began.
I have spent significant time with many people with different perspectives who often don’t agree on what our Jewish community should do, or what we are here to accomplish– but what has been clear to me is that all of us belong and this is the beautiful diversity of the Jewish people and the tension we embrace at the core of Jewishness. We can hold and wrestle with multiple perspectives, and that is something that I know I do every day as I work with all of you to choose the right paths forward in our work.
As we approach our Centennial and begin to think about how Federation has grown and evolved with the needs of our community, we have begun to pave the way for a Federation that is even more inclusive and reflective of its community’s demographics, interests, and outlook on what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century. We have expanded our programmatic reach for a stronger presence throughout Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. We are striving to become more inclusive not only from a programmatic standpoint, but in our communication with our community. Our Federation staff has also further evolved over the past year to reflect the diversity of Western Massachusetts.
Our Board of Trustees has also been reflecting on the changes needed for them to evolve with this changing world so that they can be more effective in their mission and how they work with Federation staff. This year, the Board voted to amend the Federation’s bylaws to change the structure of the Board and has reduced its number of elected members from 65 to 18. The Board created three new committees made up of JFWM past presidents, and community clergy and leadership (staff and volunteers), where they can apply their wisdom, perspective, and experience to support each other and work on the issues of importance to our community. The change to our Federation’s bylaws reflects current best practices for nonprofit organizations of our size and was recommended by Jewish Federations of North America along with other consultants. Our current Board composition reflects the diversity of our Jewish community in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties and goes beyond geographic diversity to include a wide range of backgrounds and professional expertise, ages and experience.
This year, we have seen tremendous growth in many of our programs, the most visible being Rachel’s Table. The Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts is proud of Rachel’s Table’s achievements over the past thirty years, and we look forward to seeing it grow further and continue to help our community thrive. Federation would like to thank Rachel’s Table volunteers for their dedication to our Rachel’s Table program, and their commitment, and passion for alleviating hunger in our greater community.
Looking ahead to the year to come, it is my very great pleasure to share with all of you that in 2023 our Federation will be taking the lead on Ride to Provide, with the support and blessing of our friends and partners at UMass Hillel who began the event several years ago. This will be a community-wide celebration of our Jewish community’s organizations and groups, and a very public way for us to showcase all that we have accomplished as a community, through bicycle riding, walking, or however participants choose to take part. We look forward to sharing more details soon, and we hope you will let us know if you would like to get involved in the planning process! You can also sign up for the interest list now to start getting involved and to learn more.
In the past year, we have come so far from the fear and the uncertainly of a global pandemic and a shifting landscape, and I believe we have made great strides in setting ourselves up for exponential growth in the year ahead. We have learned so much and seen the many impactful programs that have made a difference in the past year. Thank you for being with us on this journey; please consider helping us close out the 2022 Annual Campaign with strength by making a new or additional donation online or by sending me an email by Dec. 31, 2022.