By Stacey Dresner
WESTERN MASS. – In June of 2016, Sydney Alderman Perry retired from her post as executive director of the Jewish Federation and JCC of Greater New Haven.
A native of New Haven, Perry had worked at the Jewish Federation for almost 30 years.
“I have been very fortunate that my personal, professional, intellectual and spiritual lives have been fully integrated into a perfect harmony,” Perry said at that time, adding that, “After serving almost 30 years at the Federation, ‘yomam v’laila,’ day and often deep into the night, I maintain the same passion and sense of commitment as the first time I walked into the office on Whalley Avenue in July 1988.”
That passion and commitment nudged Perry out of retirement last year to serve for a short time as interim executive director of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT).
Now she has been hired as the new part-time interim executive director of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts.
Perry succeeds Bob Marmor, who served as interim director for a year before heading to the Harold Grinspoon Foundation where he is now a program officer.
“Sydney brings substantial experience, insight and direction culminating from her years as the chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven and the Jewish Community Center of New Haven,” Ronda Parish, president of the Jewish Federation of Western Mass. told members of the community via email. “She has served on long-range planning committees, CRC and leadership development as well as advocated for issues of Jewish continuity. Nationally, she has given workshops at the General Assembly of the JFNA and the 2010 conference for PJ Library and the Intermediate Executive Director’s Conference in New Orleans, LA. She has also served as the director of the Department of Jewish Education, the educational arm of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, where she worked to improve the synagogue supplementary schools and served as a consultant to the community on educational endeavors.”
At the time of her retirement, she was serving as CEO of the merged Jewish Federation and JCC of Greater New Haven.
But Perry said that she never planned to “retire” from her involvement with the Jewish community.
“In all honesty, I didn’t consider what I did at the Jewish Federation work. I considered it part of who I am and I always intended to stay very involved in many of the same issues, but particularly in education,” she said.
Last year when she spent six months at the helm of JFACT after the retirement of longtime executive director Bob Fishman, she helped to hire JFACT’s new executive director, Michael Bloom.
“In this situation again I was called upon to a community which was hoping to make a permanent hire but for at least the next couple of months needed somebody who would act as interim director,” she explained. “I’m very familiar with this community because we were in SNEC [the Southern New England Consortium] together. I’ve worked with Harold Berman and of course with Meredith Dragon very closely, and I had many connections up here.”
Her connections are growing as she continues to meet with more and more members of the Western Mass. Jewish community, both from the upper and lower Pioneer Valley.
“I’ve spent a lot of my time meeting people, listening to people, talking with them about the kind of community they want to see,” she said. “I consider that it is all consistent with all things I care deeply about – Jewish community, the future of that community, education in that community, our willingness to recognize demographics differently from the way that we have been doing business for many years, and the need for change and redirection to respond to a changing community.”
Perry said that she has not put herself in the running for the permanent executive director position. But she will, she said, help the community to determine their “priorities and recognize ways they can be more fully a community that includes both the upper and lower Pioneer Valley, working together with collaboration, with creativity and with camaraderie.”
Besides her work with the Federation, Perry also continues to teach in the New Haven area, in a variety of settings including senior centers, adult learning programs, and the Federation of New Haven’s Yesod young leadership development program.
Perry is also the current president of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut (JFACT).
On March 6, she will be the recipient of Hebrew High School of New England’s President’s Award.
“She is an outstanding woman, role model for our youth and community at large, and has an unstoppable level of energy and ideas,” Parish said.