At the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris, played by Matthew Broderick, says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” That is how I have been feeling as of late. There is so much happening in the world right now it is alarming and unless you are able to keep up with all that is going on, you could miss it. However, it is important to remember that it is okay to turn off the TV, stop scrolling through social media, or just sit wherever you are with your eyes closed for a few minutes and appreciate what you have... even in times of turmoil. I would encourage all of us to do that at least once today. Here… I’ll go first.
Today marks the start of my 17th year of working at the Jewish Federation. It was on this date, back on March 1, 2005, that I walked into the offices at 256 W. Badillo Avenue in Covina to start working at the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys. How could I possibly know that seventeen years later, I would be sitting where I am today, let alone where the organization or the Jewish community is right now?
Before I continue, I would be remiss if I didn’t express a huge sense of appreciation and gratitude to my past and current staff, board members, and the ongoing financial support of our donors. It is because of their dedication and commitment to our community that we have been able to bring the Jewish Federation to where we are today.
Today, 17 years later, I find myself leading it during one of the most challenging times that the American Jewish community has been confronted with for several decades. Studies are indicating that how people are engaging Jewishly is evolving in ways no one could have imagined, forcing organizations to figure ways to be more relevant, instead of relying on the “tried and true” methods of yesteryear that are no longer reaching or connecting people the same way.
We have also seen a rise of hatred and antisemitism the likes of which many of us in this community have never seen or experienced here in our country. And with attacks on synagogues and houses of worship throughout the country and the world that have required a concerted effort, focus, and need on doing what we can to keep our institutions and our people safe. Sadly that has also forced us to deal with the loss of feeling safe in our spiritual homes and made some of us question even walking around wearing anything that could distinguish us as being Jewish.
Thankfully, over the past several years, the Jewish Federation has been working hard towards fulfilling our mission to build community by strengthening and enhancing Jewish life. And we have been doing this through the programs and services we provide, while at the same time serving as the voice and convener of our Jewish community. I am very proud that through these programs we have been able to create opportunities for people to find their way into the Jewish community, on their own terms, and in their own way. And we have worked hard to make people feel valued and appreciated.
When I first started I had a personal goal for people to stop questioning whether there were Jews in the greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys and begin to look at what our Jewish community was doing. I am proud to say that I feel this goal is close to being achieved. Now it is time for me to begin thinking about and consider a new goal… one that takes into account the current state of our local Jewish community and the direction we should be heading. Let me know if you have any suggestions.