It has been almost two months since my family and I moved to Columbia so that I could begin in this role as the Executive Director for the Jewish Federation of Howard County. Leah, Eli, Noah, and I packed up our old house in St. Louis, said goodbye to people we loved, and set forth on a new journey.
In the weeks leading up to our departure, Leah and I talked a lot with Eli, our four-year-old son, about all the new things we were going to experience. New house, new parks, new friends, new schools, even new grocery stores. In preparing him for the changes that were coming, we were also preparing ourselves. Reminding him that it was okay to be sad about what we were leaving behind was reminding ourselves that transitions can be tough. Hearing him excitedly talk about getting to explore new places energized us as we imagined what our lives would be like in our new community.
It is truly extraordinary when what we imagine, what we hope for, becomes a reality. The past two months have affirmed what I believed to be true when I accepted this job -- the Jewish Community here in Howard County is special. It is filled with dedicated volunteers and learned clergy. It has a uniquely welcoming ethos, which I believe is a product of the vision Jim Rouse had when he was designing the city of Columbia. Rouse’s vision was driven by the biblical passage, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”.
That passage also drives me as I envision the good work that the Jewish Federation of Howard County can do in our community. I believe the Federation is uniquely positioned to serve the collective need of all our neighbors, as the foundation for our entire Jewish Community, by supporting Congregations and Jewish Organizations, by empowering individuals to be meaningfully Jewish in their own ways, and by participating as leaders in the community at large.
I believe we, as a community development organization, can do this in five important ways:
With a great respect for history and traditions, we can be an INCUBATOR OF INNOVATION to inspire new groups of people to be a part of our Jewish community.
We can help develop new programs and initiatives that meet both THE NEEDS AND THE ASPIRATIONS of the community.
We can meaningfully bring a DIVERSITY OF EXPERIENCES AND PERSPECTIVES to our volunteer leadership opportunities to provide personal and professional growth for people who want to serve on committees, boards, and in other advisory functions.
We can be a place where PEOPLE WANT TO WORK AND VOLUNTEER because we operate in accordance with our Jewish values like truth, kindness and decency, and continuous education.
We can cultivate and expand people’s CONNECTIONS TO ISRAELI people, Israeli culture, and Jewish people worldwide.
In some situations, like for me and my family right now, it is easy to demarcate what is old and what is new. We are in a new home and a new city, and we will be celebrating the high holidays this year at a new congregation. But for those of us who don’t have anything new externally, Rosh Hashanah gives us a specifically defined opportunity to reflect introspectively on the past year and imagine what the next year will bring us.
And as you imagine what the future has in store for you and how you might be involved in the Jewish community in the coming year, I hope you will feel comfortable sharing that with me. As your new neighbor, I hope all of you will feel comfortable reaching out to me so we can get together and get to know each other. I am genuinely interested to hear what you think is working for our Jewish community, and where you think there are opportunities for growth.
I wish each of you and your families a sweet and happy new year.