By Stacey Dresner
LONGMEADOW – Individuals from around the Jewish community attended the Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and Jewish Endowment Foundation of Western Massachusetts, held Sept. 5 at Jewish Geriatric Services in Longmeadow.
After a welcome from JGS President Susan Kline, the singing of the American and Israel national anthems and an invocation by Rabbi Mark Shapiro from Sinai Temple, Steven Dane, president of the Federation, spoke about some of the changes that have occurred at the Federation and around the Jewish community this past year, including the retirement of Federation CFO Julie Port and the hard work of Interim CFO Ed Kline. “Having Ed in our Federation office was like having Sandy Koufax pitch a Little League game,” Dane joked, before welcoming new CFO Stephen Balicki. He gave a nod to Joanna Ballantine, a presidential appointee for the board of trustees, who left the Harold Grinspoon Foundation this year to pursue other professional opportunities, thanking her for her service to the community.
“Tonight’s annual meeting is an opportunity for us to take action,” Dane said. “Rather than just looking back at what we have done, let’s look forward together. We have an opportunity to sustain and create a vibrant Jewish life in Western Mass. And our Federation is taking an active lead role in the success of our community. “
Dane then talked about Federation programs such as the Young Adult Division’s new I-LEAD program for emerging young leaders; a restructuring of the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Department, featuring a new leadership model and a planned retreat schedule for October; the Anna P. Housen Israel Desk and the Young Emissary program, bringing young Israelis to engage with the local community; and Rachel’s Table, the Federation’s hunger relief program, which has instituted its new Essentials, a kosher food distribution program for needy Jewish families. He thanked the Jewish Federation’s staff and local Jewish educators for their dedication and hard work.
Ronda Parish, chair of the Jewish Endowment Foundation, shared information about the Endowment Foundation. “We are celebrating our 40th year as a division of the Jewish Federation, with the role of making a strong foundation toward a vibrant Jewish community in Western Massachusetts,” she said, adding that in the last three years 28 new funds have been started totaling approximately $2 million and talked about Create a Jewish Legacy and the $18 million that program has raised for the endowments of local Jewish organizations. Paris presented the Endowment Achievement Award to Susan Weiss Firestone, campaign chair, who then spoke about the annual campaign.
According to Firestone, since April, the community met the challenge to raise $30,000, which was matched dollar for dollar by the Jewish Endowment Foundation. The annual campaign stands, she said at $1,173,000. The campaign has received more than 500 new gifts in the past two years.
“Often when we speak of our annual campaign we talk about numbers. The annual campaign isn’t about numbers at all, it is about people. It is about how much help we can give, how many children get a scholarship to day school whether they live here or whether they live in Odessa?” Firestone said. “How many children can go to a Jewish summer camp, whether they live here or in Israel or the former Soviet Union? How many frail elderly can receive food and medical assistance whether they live here, or the former Soviet Union or in Israel? The number of dollars are simply a means to an end. The end is creating and sustaining a vibrant Jewish community now and in the future.”
Following Firestone’s report, Sue Kline gave the nominating report and election of officers, and the guest speakers took the podium.
Robert Singer of World ORT talked about the organization’s 132 years of work in education in Jewish communities around the world. ORT works with 300,000 students annually through 64 different organizations. World ORT is active in 200 schools and has trained 5,000 teachers in Israel and around the world, particularly in the former Soviet Union and Latin America.
Diane Troderman introduced keynote speaker Gary McGuey, who talked about principles of “The Leader in Me” and the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
McGuey, a consultant with Franklin Covey, has consulted in the Springfield area on the “Leader in Me” program which is being taught at Heritage Academy, Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy and the Springfield JCC Preschool.
“How many people can we change, my friends? Only one… The only person we can change is ourselves,” McGuey said. We can influence others, and that is what leadership is all about.” Engaging the crowd in a few exercises, he went on to list the seven habits, which he called “common sense”: Be Proactive, Have a Vision; Put First Things First; Think Win/Win; Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood; Synergize; and Balance and Renew your Resources, Energy, and Health.
At the end of the meeting, Federation board member Mordechai Kamel and Federation Executive Director Meredith Dragon encouraged members of the community to consider going on the 2013 Community Trip to Israel, from April 15-24.
For more information about the Jewish Federation, call (413) 737-4313.