Henei ma tov umanaim shevet achim gam yachad….
How lovely it is to be together on this glorious Sunday afternoon and greet some of you for the first time. I’d like to thank our keynote speaker, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney for his work on behalf of our community and the musicians of the Hudson Opera Theater String Quartet for that exquisite performance. I also wish to congratulate our honorees, Joe and Joan Birnbaum, Joe and Abbe Distelburger, and George and Susan Levy, for a lifetime of service to the Orange County Jewish community. We are truly blessed to have you as leaders in our community.
People often ask me what does Federation do, what is Federation’s mission? The answer is simple. The Jewish Federation is here to serve you – to improve the quality of Jewish life in Orange County and to serve those in need. How we accomplish this mission involves a bit more explanation.
I often wonder how our Federation accomplishes so much with so little. There is literally no aspect of Jewish life in the county that Federation is NOT concerned about. From convening the community to discuss security issues, fighting local antisemitism in schools, supporting law enforcement in the apprehension of criminals who perpetrate hate crimes, running scholarship programs for Jewish summer campers and youth trips to Israel, offering grant programs for synagogues, religious schools and Jewish agencies, running Jewish engagement programs for young families with kids from 6 month – 11 years old, organizing an annual film festival and other Jewish cultural programs or to sum it all up - Federation invests in the people and institutions that matter most to you.
Last year during the festival of sukkot, I had the pleasure of meeting the former CEO of UJA New York John Ruskay. John raised over $135 million annually for the largest Jewish community outside of Israel. And yet as complex and challenging as his job was, he kept repeating to me... you have a much more difficult job because in a small Federation, you have to do it all. John managed hundreds of professionals in NYC and in Newburgh, well there’s just a few of us.
So, I’d like to take a moment here to acknowledge the incredible hardworking staff of the Federation, Sharon Ball, Georgia Mason and our new PJ Library Program Coordinator Rachel Rubinstein. I also want to thank Carla Wise, Board President and Leslie Green, our immediate Past President, for your leadership and continued support, as well as the entire Federation Board of Directors who generously volunteer their time, energy and resources throughout the year. There is no doubt that to run Federation is a group effort but this is only the beginning - without the support of our community partners and the generosity of our members, Federation would not exist.
Our priorities this year are defined by the most pressing needs of our community – communal security and fighting local antisemitism, access to quality Jewish education and engagement programs, and investing in our synagogues and Jewish agencies that are the heart and soul of Jewish life in the county. How can we address these new and growing needs without a significant increase in financial resources? The answer is we can’t.
In September, we announced that Federation received $50,000 from a major donor to create the Zachor Fund to address issues of communal security and combat local antisemitism. Last week, this donor agreed to make a second gift of $195,000 to help us expand our programs and build capacity at Federation. Together, these two gifts nearly double our revenues for 2017! And while this donor prefers to remain anonymous, his hope is that his gift will inspire others to step forward and increase their annual giving as well. What can you contribute to the building of our mishkan, our Jewish community? In a few moments, we will find out. Please be as generous as you can. Our future depends on you.