It is hard to believe that Rosh Hashana is already upon us. While time seemed to stop in March, sending us inside our respective homes, the calendar doesn’t stop, not even for a pandemic or protests or weather and climate emergencies. So, the green leaves are beginning to turn to rust, crimson and gold as we prepare for a period of reflection, introspection and spiritual growth.
What a year. When I took on the Presidency of the Federation a little over 12 months ago, I could have never anticipated the many things that have come our way - difficulties like a once-in-a-century pandemic, social unrest, economic turmoil, and also silver linings, such as peace between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, opportunities to connect and learn (a lot!) on Zoom, and greater time spent with our families.
In reflecting on these past six months, I have observed that challenge and opportunity coexist, and it is hard to have one without the other. The events of 2020 have challenged us immeasurably. But we have risen to these challenges and relied on courage, creativity and collaboration to tackle them on behalf of our community. I am so proud of how we have pivoted seamlessly to create opportunities for both institutions and individuals in our community.
Among other things, our Federation has:
- Convened leaders from across the community regularly to address critical issues arising from the pandemic, including securing PPP loans;
- Helped to harden security in our communal institutions through the ROCStrong Campaign;
- Aired a series of webinars detailing the results of our Every Voice Counts survey and engaged CLAL to help us plan for the future of Jewish Rochester;
- Provided free masks and other PPE to our communal institutions;
- Completed our 2019-2020 Annual Campaign that supports all of our communal infrastructure;
And last weekend, the Levine Center to End Hate, a groundbreaking initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester, convened its first Summit to End Hate, an online event aiming to broach difficult conversations around antisemitism, racism and bigotry and begin to break down barriers to change. Nearly 300 were in attendance, and we learned from and listened to one another and pledged to continue this critical work.
Much of our effort over these past six months has been in response to crisis, but our pivots have fostered resilience and strengthened community. We have chosen to stand up and to make change. Because community is a Jewish value. It is our obligation to take care of one another, not just here in Rochester, but in Israel and around the world and we have done that with your ongoing help and support. Thank you.
For me, the pandemic and what it brings with it preys on my deepest fears and anxieties. But in this time of chaos and uncertainty, I choose to focus on the light, instead of the darkness. What brings light into the dark spaces is giving. Giving of time, energy, and resources — and of ourselves. What we give reflects back to us exponentially and illuminates not just our souls, but our hearts. And that light spreads, from individuals to families, to congregations to communities and beyond.
For this new year, I am sending heartfelt blessings of light to each of you and your families. I know that we live in challenging times. I also know that there may be additional challenges ahead of us. But we are a strong, cohesive, innovative and resilient community. We are bound to one another through our shared values, our shared histories and above all, our hope. I am grateful for the opportunity to help lead our community through this tenuous period. L’shana tova to all. May you and yours have a sweet, happy and most importantly, a healthy new year.