Shep Englander — Federation Journal
Rosh Hashanah 5775
The approaching High Holy Days offer us all the opportunity to reflect on where the past year has brought us and where we are going. Our community was tested this summer by events in Israel, and we proved our strength. We are also proving our commitment to a strong future for Jewish Cincinnati, with transformative Cincinnati 2020 initiatives that are moving us toward becoming a model Jewish community.
This summer more than 125 of our young adults enjoyed educational programs in Israel thanks to life-changing grants funded by The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati and administered by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. Our students experienced Israel’s reality more deeply than we wished—a reality in which normal daily life can be suddenly replaced with savage attacks on our people and our values. But they, too, proved their strength, coming home with a respect for Israelis’ determination to thrive despite the ongoing violence.
“I don’t see it as my summer being disrupted. Instead I remember my experience with fondness and nostalgia, which demonstrates the resiliency of the community we created during our journey as well as the resiliency of Israeli society.” —Chad Chessin, Ohio State University student and participant in the Onward Israel internship program in Tel Aviv
Our community responded decisively to this terror. Contributions of all sizes totaled over $200,000 for our “Stop the Sirens” campaign. Your support gave respite and relief to Israeli children, seniors, and people with disabilities. When Israel sent troops into Gaza to dismantle Hamas’ rocket launchers and its attack tunnels, the world media showcased images of the regrettable civilian casualties that Israel was unable to avoid (largely because of Hamas’ deplorable “human shield” strategy). These emotional images gave Israel’s detractors potent ammunition for anti-Israel and antisemitic rage worldwide. To respond and to support each other, on July 27, hundreds of Cincinnatians gathered at the Mayerson JCC for an inspiring program facilitated by our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). We are continuing to respond and provide support. As our high school and college students return to school, many are concerned about whether Israel will be demonized in their school environments. Our JCRC has created materials to help prepare them for difficult conversations and interactions.
Despite these challenges, our congregations, agencies, and other organizations continue to work closely together to advance Cincinnati 2020’s goals of becoming America’s most welcoming, connected, and collaborative Jewish community. We are restructuring our services, creating innovative new services, and linking resources across community organizations to weave networking and career satisfaction into the fabric of everything we do—laying the groundwork to become a national leader in these areas. This year, the Federation launched the Esther and Maurice Becker Networking and Mentoring Center to encourage talented Jewish young adults to develop deep roots in Cincinnati and make it their lifelong home. Our goal is to connect those under 40 with mentors and colleagues. We have already met with over 75 young adults in Cincinnati and connected with 50 former Cincinnatians who moved to New York City and Chicago. We have also started managing the successful Workum Internship Program for college students. And we are just getting started!
Last year, our partner agency JVS Career Services joined its developmental disability programs with Easter Seals. This left JVS Career Services free to focus on strengthening careers. We have been working closely with JVS Career Services and the Jewish Foundation on a plan to expand JVS Career Services with a focus on connecting job seekers with employers. And this month, UC Hillel and Miami Hillel are complementing these efforts by launching a new local internship opportunity to help retain college students in Cincinnati. We are able to fund JVS Career Services, Hillel, and other programs only because of your support of the Community Campaign, which raised an inspiring $5.6 million in 2014. We are grateful to the over 100 volunteers from across our community who spent over 650 hours assessing proposals and visiting agencies, to ensure that your contributions were spent wisely on the programs and services necessary for the health of Jewish Cincinnati.
As we approach 5775, let us pray for peace in Israel and worldwide, share pride in how far our community has come with Cincinnati 2020, and honor our commitment to continue down this wonderful road together. If you’d like to learn more about any of the programs or initiatives mentioned in this letter, please visit jewishcincinnati.org/5775. We wish you a joyous New Year, a meaningful fast, and a sweet 5775.