By Laura Porter
On Sept. 12, Executive Director Steven Schimmel opened the Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts by describing a community that is both “active and authentic,” dedicated to preserving both the spiritual and the secular as well as to “building Jewish identity in young leaders and being vigilant in caring for seniors.”
“Like a diamond, we are one people with different facets,” said Federation president, Abbie Averbach, emphasizing Federation’s key role in ensuring the future of Jewish institutions, programs, and people. “No matter what your interests are, we all are integral to our community.”
The evening’s program reflected a commitment to education, Israel and the growth and continuity of the Central Mass. Jewish community through the engagement of young people as well as legacy giving.
Debbi Morin was honored with the North American Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education for her twenty-five years of teaching in Jewish religious schools. youth educator at Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough, Morin received a Certificate in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion in 2015 and became a member of the Association of Reform Jewish Educators in 2016. The Grinspoon award was presented to her by last year’s winner, Deborah Fruchtman.
Leah Shuldiner, who directs Life and Legacy, a new JFCM program in partnership with the Grinspoon Foundation, reported a total of 148 legacy commitments to date from 93 donors, amounting to $4.2 million. The eleven area organizations involved in the four-year program are well on their way this year to reaching their annual goal of securing 18 commitments; two have already surpassed it.
Shuldiner presented Life and Legacy’s Visions of the Future Award to the Cutler Foundation and the Leo H. Rudnick Family Trust for contributions that reflected their commitment to l’dor v’dor. The awards were accepted by Doug Cutler and Rabbi Dick Rudnick.
Tamar Melech and Stav Attias, the newest representatives of the Young Emissary Program to Central Massachusetts, introduced themselves and described their enthusiasm about getting to know the community and share their love and knowledge of Israel.
The involvement of people of all ages is critical to any Jewish community, and Mindy Hall, Director of Outreach, reported “the Federation family has more than doubled” since outreach efforts formally began seven years ago. The Young Adult Division (YAD), the PJ Library and the newest program, Chaverim, aimed at adults from 40 to 60, have helped to create friendships and foster connections.
The development of new leadership has been a critical offshoot of outreach. Joshua Robbins and Amy Klein presented a video of their trip to Israel for the Young Leadership Mission last summer.
Federation Board Vice President Ben Lyons, newly named member of the National Young Leadership Cabinet, described his service trip with Cabinet members to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Relief efforts undertaken by JFNA “raised money even before the water receded,” he said. Cabinet organized an Amazon wish list for hurricane survivors as well as its distribution.
“This is Federation,” he said. “This is the Jewish people helping Jewish people around the world.”
Throughout the evening’s program, Federation President Toby Richmond z”l, who died last summer, was never far from anyone’s thoughts.
Describing Toby’s “infectious optimism,” energy and unflagging dedication to the Jewish community, Abbie Averbach noted that “we honor Toby by working together toward our common vision of a vibrant Jewish community.”
As a first step to that end, Steven Schimmel presented the inaugural Toby Richmond Volunteer Leadership Award to Jeff Narod. Narod, involved in the Jewish community since he was a college student in Miami, has been, with his wife, Judy, a member of Congregation Beth Tikvah Synagogue in Westborough for 25 years. In addition to involvement with the Federation Board and the Hillel Advisory Board, he has served as president of the Boroughs JCC, headed local Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in 2005, chaired efforts to raise money for a firetruck for Israel and repeatedly hosted both young emissaries as well as visitors to the community.
As the business component of the annual meeting, Natalie Rudolph, chair of the nominating committee, presented the 2017-2018 slate of board members and officers.
The annual meeting concluded with a short concert by Shir Joy Chorus.
CAP: Federation President Abbie Averbach speaking at the annual meeting.