Summer Round-Up - August 14, 2020

Last week we learned of the passing of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (z”l). I had the opportunity to meet him on one occasion and shared the following story with him.
While in my senior year of college, the English language translation of the Talmud was being published. My professor, Dr. David Blumenthal, invited four students to learn Talmud with him. It was an honor to be in the class.
The class met every Wednesday night at Dr. Blumenthal’s home and grades were based on everyone’s active participation. His wife would serve homemade chocolate chip cookies as everyone argued about passages in the Talmud. I found that I spent more time eating the cookies then debating.
For the final exam, we were required to memorize a piece of Talmud, recite it to Dr. Blumenthal, and then engage in a conversation with him about its meaning. I rocked my final exam. Dr. Blumenthal said to me, “You did an excellent job on your final exam. However, I should give you a B in the class because you rarely participated when we met at my home. But I will give you an A because my wife appreciated you eating all the cookies each week."
Rabbi Steinsaltz, who was known to have a great sense of humor, laughed at the story and then turned to me and said, “Can you get me the cookie recipe?”
This week, I thought I would provide a round-up of some interesting happenings in our community:
Israel and United Arab Emirates:
Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached an agreement that includes the “full normalization of relations." The two countries will sign multiple bilateral agreements on investment, tourism, security, technology, energy and other areas while moving to allow direct flights between their countries and set up reciprocal embassies in each other’s nations. Officials described the agreement, to be known as the Abraham Accords, as the first of its kind since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994. This is a major step forward and we hope additional agreements can be reached with Israel's neighbors.
Agency Meetings:
Professional leaders from the Jewish Federation are “checking in” with leaders of our local Federation-funded Jewish agencies to see where things are as the pandemic continues. Here are some of the key questions we are asking:
  • How are you and your staff managing?
  • How does the agency see service delivery changing both temporarily and more permanently as a result of this crisis?
  • How is re-opening going?
  • What can Federation help offer/facilitate/secure that will help you at this time?
  • Are there opportunities to collaborate now that did not exist before?
  • What are your fundraising plans for the year? Contingency plans if fundraising results are less than expected?
  • What are your contingency plans in terms of longer-term service modification? Have you prepared/planned for different scenarios?
  • What are the “silver linings” to this experience? What are new best practices you plan to continue post-Covid?
  • How/what have you done to engage the new virtual people viewing your online programming?
We are grateful for the work each of our agencies are doing as they manage through the pandemic.
I encourage you to read this outstanding article by Dr. Steven Windmueller, Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR, about how our Jewish organizations can prepare for the “new normal.”
He writes (and expands on each of these), “At one moment, we are suddenly living through four simultaneous challenges to our lives, institutions, and the communal order:
1.   Economic Uncertainties
2.   Cultural Wars
3.   Medical/Pandemic Impact
4.   Political Divisions and Upheavals
Each of these external forces will be contributing to a structural realignment within the Jewish eco-system. These mega-issues are coming face-to-face with the internal scenarios we identified already in the aftermath of the 2008 recession. At that time, the impact of generational and demographical changes, operational/technological challenges, and the new economic realities began to influence and shape the Jewish communal world. The results from that experience remain with us: declining memberships, the expanding roles of foundations, the downsizing and consolidating of institutional systems and the growing recognition of distinctive generational affiliation patterns.”
We will all see what the future holds for our Jewish institutions and Jewish community.
On a separate note, the Jewish Federations of North America, in conjunction with JPRO Network and other national Jewish organizations, has created a valuable resource for Jewish communal professionals who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
RISE provides Jewish community professionals with a breadth of resources, tools, and support to lift them up during this economic downturn and get you back on your career path. The program provides:
  • A comprehensive listing of dependable financial assistance agencies, grants and free loan programs
  • Resilience building programs. Your self-care is a priority. Resources are offered including mindfulness practices, meditation classes, workshops, and more.
  • Career coaching, mentoring and support from professionals ready to assist.
Fortunately, our Jewish communal professionals have not been impacted to the same extent as in other communities, but we want them to know we are here to help.
Sneak Peak:
I am very excited for the wide-array of virtual programs the Jewish Federation will be bringing to our community in the upcoming months. Chef Michael Solomonov will be doing a pre-Rosh Hashanah cooking demonstration. We will hear from such noted scholars as Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Yossi Klein HaLevi, and Rabbi Elka Abrahamson. Our JCRC will be co-sponsoring several programs on confronting hate. The Solomon’s Legacy Society for lawyers will be returning. And soon we will announce a special comedy night for our Community Gala celebration in November. Be on the lookout for the event notices.
And, starting next week, we will be sharing inspiring daily videos (most are 1 minute long) from community leaders during the Hebrew month of Elul. Elul is the month during which we are encouraged to study and take time for personal reflection around our actions of the past year and to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged or with whom we otherwise have “missed the mark” in our interactions and behaviors prior to the High Holy Days. I hope you will enjoy each of the daily videos.
Shabbat shalom and enjoy the sunshine!
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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