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Energy & Spirit

JFCM shares year’s highlights at annual meeting

By Stacey Dresner

WORCESTER – In his welcoming statements at the Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. on Wednesday, Sept. 11, Executive Director Steven Schimmel was upbeat, listing projects and programs that have grown and thrived over the past year. He thanked the Federation’s donors who have helped make those programs a success.

“Energy and spirit in our community is alive and well,” Schimmel said.

But he also recognized the national tragedy that happened on the same date as the meeting.

“Today is 9/11. Eighteen years ago we lost more than buildings and planes and people. We lost our innocence, but we gained a unity unlike anything seen since,” he stated. “With that spirit of togetherness in mind, let us join together tonight for this meeting and for the new Jewish year ahead with a sense of purpose… Let us be a light unto nations and a light unto our own community.”

Steven Schimmel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass.

Schimmel shared some of the past year’s highlights and achievements of the Federation and the Jewish community with the crowd that attended the annual meeting at the Worcester JCC. 

These included:

-The LIFE & LEGACY program, which has received 371 pledged gifts with an estimated value of over $10 million; of those, the Federation has 56 legacy commitments valuing over $1.6 million; 

-PJ library, which, with 108 new PJ Library subscriptions since September 1, 2018 totals 360 active PJ Library subscriptions;

-And outreach efforts by Mindy Hall, which have led to nearly 350 members of the Young Adult Division (YAD).

Schimmel also spoke about programs to which the Jewish Federation has allocated crucial funds.

Eighty percent of funds were allocated to local agencies and congregations, Schimmel said, including $80,000 in educational funding for programs at local Hebrew schools, $9,000 in funding for Kehillah High, and additional funding for Clark University Hillel and WPI Hillel. More than $30,000 was allocated for Partnership2Gether projects and nearly $100,000 in funding was allocated for a number of programs at the JCC, including a summer camp shlihim program to add Jewish and Israeli content at the JCC summer camp. 

Of course, Federation also funds Jews outside of the local community.

“We funded Birthright and also funded, through World ORT, a school in Russia focusing on STEM education. We funded testing for at-risk youth in Israel through Hadassah. We funded Shir Joy, our community choir. And we provided a Tzedkah fund for the most vulnerable in the community. We fund Torathon; we send the Jewish Ledger to every Jewish household in Central Mass., and we allocated nearly $175,000 to fund vital programs in other communities around the world through the JFNA network. There are quite literally elderly Jews in Eastern Europe and at-risk communities in Israel who are able to eat and live a dignified life because of your donation to our Federation right here.”

The business end of the meeting was handled by Federation President Jonathan Sigel, including giving the nominating committee report and the election of the governing board. 

Three awards were given out to individuals who have  made a difference in the community – Linda Duke of Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough, to whom Wendy Wong presented the Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education; Steve Sosnoff, who received the Visions for the Future Award from Leah Shuldiner, Coordinator of the LIFE & LEGACY program; and EJ Dotts, who was the recipient of the Toby Richmond z”l Memorial Leadership Award.

Young Emissary Coordinator Liz Baker, center, with emissaries Lior Levi, left, and Dolev Stav, right.

That award was created by gifts made to the Federation by friends and family of past Federation President Toby Richmond after her death three years ago. The award includes a stipend for the recipient to travel to Israel and visit Afula–Gilboa Worcester’s sister city through the Jewish Federation of Southern New England Consortium (SNEC) and Jewish Agency for Israel Partnership, an area that was near and dear to Richmond’s heart.

Liz Baker, Young Emissary Coordinator, introduced the Israel Young Emissaries for 2019-2020, Lior Levi and Dolev Stav, before Schimmel ended the meeting and Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem was sung.

“This past year was challenging,” Schimmel told the crowd. “Globally and especially nationally, anti-Semitic incidentssky-rocketed; there were the horrific shootings in Pittsburgh and Poway; and at the same time Israel faced both diplomatic and terrorism-related challenges…On top of that, the circumstances of today’s 24/7 news culture and social media and our busy lives makes building and sustaining a Jewish community and especially our annual fundraising efforts even more difficult. Rather than shrink away from a darkening world, it’s time for us to take on these issues – with purpose, with confidence, with togetherness, and with leadership. And that is why I believe that community in general and Federation specifically is so relevant and important today. Federation is tasked with and should be well-equipped and well-prepared to overcome these challenges – to lead the way forward.”

Main Photo: The annual meeting of the JFCM was held at the Worcester JCC.

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