Reflections on a Year in Rockland

This week marks my first anniversary as CEO of the Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County. It has been a busy year, getting to know this community, building bridges within and beyond it, advocating for it, and finding its hidden strengths.

I am grateful to all of those who have helped me ‘learn the ropes’ these past 12 months. These include 

  • Our Federation Board led by Co-Presidents Steve Gold and Marcy Pressman; 
  • Our campaign Co-Chairs Carol Blau and Steve Cohn (as well as emeritus campaign Chair Bob Silverman); 
  • Our Community Relations Committee led by Rich Levin and Evan Karzhevsky; 
  • The many Rabbis and spiritual leaders I’ve learned from across the breadth of the County, from all denominations;
  • Our agency leadership, with special thanks to David Kirschtel from the JCC; 
  • The many supporters who have been generous with their time and advice as well as their donations; 
  • Those beyond our community in government, media, and other non-profits who have been so gracious and helpful to me, including the County Executive & Town Supervisors, their staff, and their law enforcement leadership. 

I am proud of our accomplishments this past year, and I’d like to share some of them with you. One question I’ve heard several times since starting here is - What do you do at Federation? Well, here is some of what we do, and we look forward to doing more in the days and months to come.

Through our successful annual campaign, we continued to fund local beneficiaries such as the Jewish Community Center (JCC), Rockland Jewish Family Service (RJFS), Hillel, and the Holocaust Museum. We helped address food insecurity & assist troubled youth  in Israel by supporting Leket Israel & Kfar Silver. And we created and executed a successful Giving Tuesday campaign raising thousands of dollars for the Rhoda Bloom Kosher Food Pantry at RJFS.

  • Our annual campaign supported capacity building at Jewish Federations of North America, allowing them to act immediately in a crisis as they did in Ukraine. Here in Rockland, we raised an additional $85,000 for Ukraine Emergency Relief from an amazing 400 donors! 
  • We’ve secured more than $200,000 in new dollars for this fiscal year (2023), with an additional $400,000 secured over the following two years to safeguard Jewish institutions. These funds enabled us to plan and begin a security initiative which will not only raise the level of safety in our community, but also bridge communal differences with common purpose and interests. We have hired a seasoned law enforcement professional with over two decades of experience as our Director of Security. We are now working with several dozen Jewish institutions in Rockland from across the county and from all elements of our diverse community.
  • We began a strategic planning process and consultation which will guide us over the next several years, including a community wide survey which garnered over 500 responses. 
  • We have developed a closer working relationship with the County and several Towns. This enabled us to assist the County in messaging amidst the current public health crisis, and has already established the cooperation needed for our security initiative..
  • We delivered a memorial over zoom in January marking two years since the antisemitic murder of a local rabbi, featuring the Governor, both Senators, & other leaders, with hundreds of participants. We led moving programs for Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut. In February we had Pulitzer Prize winning author Tom Friedman speak over zoom to over 200 Rockland participants.
  • Our Community Relations Committee (CRC) has addressed antisemitism on social media, legacy media, at local schools and school districts, and directly with legislators at the state, local, and Federal level. It has built relationships with other minority and vulnerable communities, and advocated together for a Rockland without hate. We successfully lobbied members of Congress in Washington on issues like hate crime reporting, refugee assistance, and non-profit security grants. We accomplished a change in policy at a major newspaper on how it covers antisemitism, part of how we've changed the discussion on antisemitism in Rockland, and we are working with new partners to find consensus on ways to address it. Through CRC, we have created a Public Policy Working Group, which engages several young leaders with expertise and experience in the Community Relations Committee and Federation's work, advising the Federation Board on public policy issues at all levels of government.
  • We are growing the number of participants in our PJ Library program, aiming at a 20% increase by the end of the fiscal year. We are delivering dynamic adult education programming to hundreds of participants each year, and organizing our annual Global Day of Learning. And we are imminently beginning a brand new educational series on effective advocacy for the Jewish people and Israel.

I’m committed to continuing along this path - achieving our core goals, meeting our responsibilities  fully and well, doing new things in new ways to benefit our community, and doing things that no other organization in Rockland can do. 

Since I began I have been determined to share this journey with you, our readers, and I am grateful to you as well, for your feedback and your commitment to our community.