By Laura Porter
WORCESTER – The “energy and excitement” in the community made it an especially appropriate time to gather together, said Executive Director Steven Schimmel on Sept. 27 at the 69th Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. (JFCM).
The meeting, presided over by Federation board president Toby Richmond, began with a d’var Torah by Rabbi Michael Swarttz of Congregation Beth Tikvah.
Sahar Dayan and Yoav Luxenbourg, the two new young emissaries from the Afula/Gilboa region, introduced themselves to the community. Here under the Partnership 2Gether program, they will spend the next nine months in Central Massachusetts serving as a bridge between Israeli and American culture.
This year’s winner of the Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, Phyllis Spool, presented this year’s award to Debbie Fruchtman of Congregation Agudat Achim in Leominster. In addition to her work as the principal there, Fruchtman is also the new coordinator for Torathon, the annual evening celebrating adult education.
Richmond took the opportunity to offer “love and appreciation for all you do for the Jewish community” to Jordan Robbins, a past president of Federation who has continued to work on several projects that he took on during his presidency. After Robbins’ work in securing state and federal grants to eliminate environmental hazards at 13 Hope Ave. in Worcester, the property has now received a clean bill of health and been sold to the present tenant for $351,000. The money from the sale will go into the JFCM endowment.
Robbins has also been involved in ensuring the maintenance and survival of Hebrew Cemetery in Worcester, and during his presidency spearheaded both the purchase of a fire truck for the Afula/Gilboa region in Israel and a campaign in support of Israel during the Lebanon War. To supplement Bet Shalom, affordable housing for Jewish seniors, Robbins began to develop Bet Shalom 2, now filled to capacity with a one-year waiting list.
Two departing board members, Jason Epstein and Karen Kaufman, were thanked for their service.
Officers remaining on the board are: Toby Richmond, President; Abbie Averback, Vice President of Leadership and Outreach; Ben Lyons, Vice President of Campaign; Sharon Krefetz, Vice President at Large; Steve Heims,Treasurer; Carol Sleeper, Secretary; and Natalie Rudolph, Immediate Past President.
Returning board members are: Howard Alfred; Donna Elfman; Dan Fins; Merilee Freeman; Ben Joseph; Melissa Kaplan; Dennis Lindenberg; Bernie Rotman; and Sheila Trugman.
The nomination of Anna ben Moshe, Barbara Rossman, Steven Sosnoff and Jody Yoffie as new board members was unanimously approved by those present.
Steven Schimmel, who became executive director on July 1, spoke about the importance of “the collective power of the Jewish world” represented by the Federation network.
In Central Mass., he said, JFCM’s role is to “ensure that every local need is met” and “ensure a tone of positivity.” Federation is the “safety net” to make the community feel “protected and provided for.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, he presented a bouquet to Toby Richmond, one of 75 women who received the International Lion of Judah Kipnis-Wilson Friedland award this year. Richmond accepted the award in Washington D.C. in September.
To bring the meeting to a close, Richmond noted that three critical elements of the JFCM strategic plan, adopted two years ago, were in the process of being fulfilled.
In addition to bringing “a young executive director to lead us into the future,” she said, Federation has partnered with other Federations to take part in the Life and Legacy program intended to help other local Jewish organizations to secure legacy gifts from their memberships and supporters.
JFCM sponsored a number of successful programs, including visits from representatives of the Rape Crisis Centers in Afula/Gilboa, Torathon, Meitel Tzur’s talk about the rescue operations of the IDF, and a reception hosted by the Women’s Division before a performance by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra at Mechanics Hall.
The Jewish-Latino Dialogue continues to flourish, and its Odessa Havana program, presented in partnership with El Centro in March, was quite successful.
The Young Adult Division (YAD) and the new Chaverim, for adults in their fifties to sixties, are flourishing under the guidance of JFCM Outreach Director Mindy Hall.
The farewell reception for departing executive director Howard Borer, held at the Worcester Historical Museum in June, drew 180 people and raised $6,000 that will go to outreach and the PJ Library budgets.
Finally, said Richmond, last year’s Annual Campaign raised more than in 2014, and this year’s already shows an increase of 15 percent.
As a formal kickoff to the campaign, Ben Lyons, Wendy Ligeti and Cari Lynn Fisher spoke about their personal experiences with Federation and the Central Mass. Jewish community.
The meeting concluded with a raffle, the winners drawn from the evening’s pledge cards.