Shabbat shalom! It is a pleasure to share this message with you having completed my first week as the new CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester. Every morning as I have driven to work this week I have felt grateful for the opportunity to work on behalf of the Rochester community, continuing to help people in need and creating vibrant Jewish life.
In my first week, I have been impressed with the volunteers and professionals who have dedicated themselves to this community. And it is an honor for me to follow Larry Fine, who I have looked to as a mentor, colleague and friend.
Over the course of my career, I have truly enjoyed sharing words from our holy texts and relating them to our Federation's sacred work. What I love about our text is that even though we read it over and over again, we can always see it through a different lens because we are different each time we read it. Often we can see old things in new ways.
I explored this week's Torah reading to find something new and insightful. Much to my surprise, the reading this week is Tazria, which is also known as the infamous portion mostly about laws of purity and impurity relating to leprosy. Uh oh, not what I expected for my first message!
How in the world could I possibly relate anything I have experienced this week to the Torah reading? It has been a whirlwind of meaningful experiences including attending the Rochester Synagogue Council's program on conversos and a meeting of the Commission on Christian Jewish Relations. I met the Federation's Center for Holocaust Awareness and Information (CHAI) Committee and attended the Board of Rabbis meeting. Community leaders came together for a beautiful Hunger Seder sponsored by our Community Relations Committee. Also, I have been busy meeting with our donors, volunteer leadership, local colleagues and staff to learn as much as I can about our Federation. I have been inspired by what I have learned.
On a personal level, I am living in Rochester alone while my husband and children remain in Massachusetts so that our children can finish their school year. There has been an outpouring of support from people who have invited me for Shabbat dinners and other meals. Others made sure I knew where I was going. Too many people to count have worried about how I was feeling being here on my own and offered help in a multitude of ways. All of this and more has shown me the depth of caring and compassion in Rochester. I know the concern and support is genuine and I am grateful for every offer and invitation.
It was in a moment of gratitude, thinking about my first week, that I realized why this week's Torah reading is really quite perfect. What we learn from our text in Tazria is that we are indeed supposed to care for everyone, so much so, that we dedicate nearly an entire reading to how we care for lepers. Our text shows us that caring and compassion is the true essence of who we are as a people. For if we can care for those suffering from a disease from which most of us would run, then we as a people have the compassion and fortitude to care for everyone.
I am honored to have been a recipient of such generosity of spirit in Rochester and I look forward to our continued work together making sure that all Jews feel helped and supported so that they can live fruitful and vibrant Jewish lives.
Please know that you can be in touch with me any time. I look forward to meeting many more people in Rochester as my family begins to call this city our home.