From as early as I could remember, I always wanted to be a dentist when I grew up. I have a feeling that this was because I was influenced by one of my favorite family members… my Uncle Eddie. While not technically my uncle, he was someone I looked up to, both literally and figuratively. I remember visiting him at his New Jersey dental office when I was a kid. As I got older, my interest in dentistry shifted a bit into orthodontics when I realized that orthodontists don’t give shots.
Then in my teenage years, my interest shifted and I had a strong desire to be a rabbi. As I have previously shared, Judaism has always been a significant part of who I was and who I am today. The memories and experiences I have with my childhood rabbi still remain with me today. I wanted to be just like Rabbi Shelley Waldenberg and then later Rabbi Michael White. It was my hope that as a rabbi, I could provide the same kind of experiences I had, with my future congregation. Although I never did become a rabbi, synagogue life has always had a place in my life and it is why I love working in our community.
As you are probably aware, besides the Jewish Federation, synagogues predominately make up the other Jewish organizations in our community, except for our two local Jewish preschools, the Chabads of our community, and one or two other groups. What you may not be aware of is that a number of years ago, the Jewish Federation developed and still moderates a Synagogue Presidents’ Council, made up of the current synagogue presidents in our community.
The purpose of this council is to provide opportunities for the synagogue presidents to get to know one another, come together, discuss issues they are facing in their respective synagogues, learn from one another, and provide feedback. Many past synagogue presidents have often shared how valuable this council has been. Since they have gotten to know other synagogue presidents, they feel they can reach out and ask for help/perspective/ideas/guidance/etc. when they are facing an issue at their synagogue.
While most of our community synagogues are affiliated with their movement organizations, there is something comforting in knowing that there are local “colleagues” they can reach out to who know our community.
In addition to providing one another updates about what is going on at their synagogues, discussion topics at the council meetings have ranged from fundraising, programming, security (including the latest rounds of Nonprofit Security Grant Program from the Federal government), COVID-related planning, and many others. Plus, these meetings provide the Jewish Federation an opportunity to update the synagogues on trends and other information that we feel is important for them and their congregants to be aware of.
This is just another example of how the Jewish Federation works each day to build community by strengthening and enhancing Jewish life.