Being “Bullish” on the Jewish Future

Leaders from Rockland’s synagogues and Jewish agencies have convened twice this year as part of a community weaving process. The quorum includes rabbis and lay leaders from ten Board of Rabbis synagogues as well as board members and staff from six local agencies.


By Gary Siepser, CEO

I want to share some thoughts with you on the approaching anniversary of my first year as Federation CEO, and having just heard from Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.

At the 2016 Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in November, Ron Dermer spoke on the topic of investor interest in Israel. He reviewed Israel’s prospects based on events – both economic and diplomatic – over the past decade. Needless to say, based on that progress and in the face of many challenges, including violence and instability in the region, he is very “bullish” on Israel. The ambassador is a steely-eyed realist and optimist. His view is based on facts, not wishful thinking. He spoke of the many shared interests between Israel and many of her neighbors and that shared interest is more powerful than past animosities and rivalries. He concluded that the past does not have to define or limit the future.

When I became CEO of the Jewish Federation & Foundation of Rockland County, I found a lack of collaboration between Jewish organizations. I even found counter-productive rivalry between some. This flew in the face of obvious shared interests and challenges, which inspired Federation to begin a community- weaving process. In the last six months and especially since September, there has been a significant coming together of 16 Jewish organizations in Rockland, to build a shared vision and a shared future. We are trying to do something that is innovative and ground breaking. The honesty and candor evidenced in two full-house group meetings makes me an optimist about the future of both the community and Federation. There is a lot of work to do and twists in the road to navigate, but the way forward is there for us.

We in the Rockland Jewish community have real challenges in economics, demographics and growing anti-Semitism. These issues cannot be ignored or wished away. Like Mr. Dermer, we need to be steely-eyed realists. And I know that if we continue on the road of community weaving we too can be optimists. Jewish tradition teaches us to take the journey together and build for a better future. We have every reason to believe in the future and I invite you to join in the journey.

Before the year ends you will have the opportunity to invest in Rockland’s Jewish future by making a tax-deductible donation to support Federation. If you have yet to receive your December pledge card in the mail, please give online by 12/31/16. By doing so, you’re saying yes to optimism and yes to a more vibrant   Jewish future.

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Chanukah.


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