Leadership Transitions

On Wednesday night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland held its 99thAnnual Meeting. It was an inspiring evening! We had the opportunity to share our successes for the year, recognize Eve Levy as the recipient of the Laurie Rogoway Jewish Professional of the Year Award, and acknowledge our Sussman Scholarship awardees. It was also a time to say thank you to many of our community’s leaders.

One of the greatest joys of my job is that every 2-3 years I gain a new best friend – the Federation Chair. It has been a true honor and pleasure to partner with Ed Tonkin for the past three years as the Jewish Federation’s Chair of the Board. Ed is a remarkable man who did so much for our community.

In the past, Ed was not closely involved with the Jewish Federation except in 1999 when he co-chaired with his cousin, Cheryl, the Federation Gala with Henry Winkler. Seven years ago, Cheryl recruited Ed once again to co-chair our Food for Thought Festival, which brought out thousands of people. Soon after the festival Ed joined the Federation Board and the rest is history.

I recall the conversations I had with Ed when he was asked to be the Chair. He peppered me with questions: Why me? What do I know? What can I offer?

And all I could think about is, here is the past President of the National Automobile Dealers Association, leading thousands and thousands of dealerships in 2010 during the most difficult time in the auto industry, and how do I convince him to take the leading role at the Jewish Federation?

Lucky for me and our community, he said YES!

Many of you know Ed from his family’s automotive business commercials. But I know Ed in a very different way. Ed is brilliant, personable, and a great listener. Plus, he has an insatiable desire to learn. Multiple times during his chairmanship, he met with each of our Jewish organizations to listen and learn from them about our community and ways the Jewish Federation could better support their efforts.

And when I took Ed to Israel for his first ever trip, he soaked up every bit of information. Seeing Israel through Ed’s eyes is something I will always cherish.

Ed is also warm and very genuine. Everything he says and does comes from a good place in his heart. He makes everyone around him feel at ease. He just loves people and what they have to offer. And in return, they respond to him. Just like our community has!

Ed, on behalf of a grateful Jewish community, thank you for your leadership and service. You have truly helped to build a better future.

I am excited to share that Lauren Goldstein is the new Chair of the Board of the Jewish Federation. Lauren brings such great energy, creativity and love for Jewish community to the position. I am truly honored to be working with her and look forward to her leading us to an even brighter future.

Lauren is the 4thwoman to hold this position in our community. An interesting tidbit -- of the 50 largest Jewish Federations in America, only four have had as many female Chairs as Portland. I have no doubt Lauren will have many great successes like Liz Menashe, Priscilla Kostiner, and Gayle Romain, as well as the 41 other people who have served in this role previously.

Our community is in for a real treat with Lauren leading the way.

I also want to recognize Mindy and Mark Zeitzer, who served as the Campaign Chairs of the Jewish Federation for the past three years. Under their leadership, the Jewish Federation has raised in excess of $12.3 million to help fund local and overseas programs and services! More importantly, in each of the three years we have seen a growth in our donor base at all levels, which is just as important as the dollars.

Ted Nelson has agreed to serve as our next Campaign Chair. We are grateful to him for taking on this important leadership role.

We have major work ahead to further strengthen and enrich our Jewish community. In partnership with our incredible Board of Directors and all of you we will see even greater Jewish communal successes in the years ahead.

Changing direction, allow me to extend a hearty mazel tov to all the (pre-school, elementary school, middle school, high school, and college) graduates in our community, including my own daughter (who graduates tomorrow from high school).

Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, Executive Director of Harvard University Hillel offered a blessing for the Class of 2019 at the school’s Baccalaureate ceremony (and I think it is apropos for all our graduates):

A 15-year old Anne Frank wrote the following just weeks before the Gestapo discovered her family’s hiding place in Amsterdam, and she was sent to a concentration camp and to her death.

“It really is a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, since they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart…I can sense the sufferings of millions; and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty, too, will end, and that peace and tranquility will return. I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.”

My blessing to you is that you fulfill that faith.

If you bear such a hope in your hearts – and if you do not wait, but never refrain from working to fulfill the vision – then you yourselves will be the blessing, and all of us will say – Amen.

Enjoy the festival of Shavuot, which begins Saturday night, when we celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai (perhaps you will stay up all night studying Torah), and commemorate the “first fruits” of the harvest. 

Shabbat shalom and chag Shavuot sameach.








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