By Andrea Weinberger
It has been my privilege to serve as your Federation President for the past three years. During this time, the needs of our community have been changing, making Federation’s role as a community leader that much more vital. I am proud of how far we have come not only as a Federation but as a stronger Jewish community. Between the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv and the horrific killings in Orlando earlier this month, it is critical that we continue to stand together as a united community.
At Federation’s Annual Meeting on June 9 I was pleased to report that the state of our Federation has never been stronger. Under the leadership of our new CEO, Gary Siepser, we are working closer than ever with our agencies. Federation has increased funding for new initiatives at JCC Rockland and the Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education, approved additional scholarship dollars for Rockland Jewish Academy and provided directed monies to Rockland Jewish Family Service to meet the critical needs of Holocaust Survivors in our community.
The past year has also seen the need for increased action by our Community Relations Council, headed by Steve Gold. We have been very busy working throughout our community to combat not only anti-Semitism but also prejudice, bias and intolerance. While these types of issues are difficult and hurtful, they also present an opportunity to make a difference by creating change. I am very proud of Federation’s leadership in having anti-Semitic teaching materials removed from our schools. Additionally, students and faculty in Clarkstown, Nyack and Orangetown school districts are going to have customized programs provided by the Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education, so students can understand what to do when they perceive bias of any kind.
Federation also provided funding to the Rockland County Board of Rabbis to create the “Rockland and Jewish” social media campaign. This Facebook outreach program has been highlighting the appeal of Rockland to new families since its launch in the fall of 2015. If you haven’t already done so, please “like” our Rockland and Jewish Facebook page and share your inspiring stories.
While new initiatives are important, our Annual Campaign continues to strengthen our community through programs like PJ Library which provides Jewish books monthly to over 500 children with young children. This past year we received a grant from Jewish Federations of North America to develop outreach events to successfully engage these families. Federation also provides ongoing adult Jewish learning classes while our Leadership Development Institute helps to engage the next generation of community leaders. For the past three years, Federation has proudly funded a Community Shaliach (Israel emissary). Liraz Levi, our current Shaliach is helping to bring a little bit of Israel to all of us, whether at the JCC or one of the many religious schools.
Federation’s Annual Campaign allows us to fund programs in Rockland, Israel and in 60+ countries worldwide, but it is long-term planning and endowments that will allow the work of Federation to continue. In May, our board voted unanimously to change the name of our organization to Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County as we move towards securing legacy gifts to ensure a strong future for our community.
Helping to strengthen our local community is important, but the role of Federation in Israel is just as critical. This year, in addition to our budgeted allocation, our community raised an incremental $25,000 to be used for Rockland partnership programs in Israel.
For the past 6 months I have been working closely with President-elect Lisa Green to prepare for the leadership transition. Lisa has always had a strong vision for strengthening our community, with an emphasis on engaging people in synagogue life. Through the Rockland Jewish Initiative (RJI), Lisa has helped provide over 300 new member grants to connect families to synagogues. I know that under her leadership, our Federation and Foundation will continue to strengthen our community.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Federation staff for their dedication and commitment to our Federation and community. To the executive board and board, thank you for all of your hard work and inspiring ideas. It has been a wonderful experience working with all of you and learning from you. You showed me that one person can make a difference.
Lastly, I want to thank all of our donors. Your generosity makes an incredible difference in our local and worldwide Jewish community. If you have not yet made your pledge for Annual Campaign 2016, please do so here and support the vital work we do. Let’s continue to build a strong Federation and Foundation that can ensure the vitality of our Jewish community for many generations to come.