Looking toward the future

By: Dr. Howard Warner

Time passes quickly and it is eight months since I assumed office. One goal for this two-year term includes helping keep Jewish Federation relevant for the next decade and beyond. Demographics have a serious impact upon any voluntary organization. Our community has fewer than 2,000 Jewish adults and is aging, but our community is also vital and looking toward the future.
During our board meeting on May 1, we divided into several table groups to identify issues that should be addressed to help our organization function better. We will select a few of these issues to make changes that will make our Federation more meaningful for our community. To that end, Arieh Ullmann and Charlie Manasse have already followed through with ideas for changing our by-laws to make our board function better.
We have a large board membership. Many non-profit “best practices” suggest a board membership of 12-18. Due to the community inclusive nature of our organization, this is not practical, but we are considering reducing the voting membership from about 55 to 45 or less. We also seek a participatory board that attends regular meetings, with a quorum to enact normal business, in addition to our annual allocation meeting. To this aim, we have recommended some changes we hope will ensure this result. Our board is composed of many caring and committed members who ensure the Federation provides financial and spirited support to our community and agencies.
Our endowment has grown thanks to the general stock market rise. My thanks to our Endowment Committee led by Michael Wright and our financial manager Ruthanne Koffman. As Kim Levine retires from this committee, I thank him for his years of service and wish him well. We have determined to begin a Legacy Campaign to ensure the financial future of our Federation. If you are contacted for this purpose, please give full consideration for the future of our community. 
Our annual Campaign has generated substantial funds for allocation, but yearly we fall short and must utilize cash from our endowment to manage the difference. Our Campaign chairwomen, Rita Shawn and Barbara Greenberg, along with a terrific team have done a wonderful job on behalf of our Federation. I thank all volunteers and contributors to our Campaign. This year, we have fewer contributors, but many have increased their amount to help our efforts. If you have not contributed to the 2017 Campaign, I hope that you will give us consideration. If you have pledged to the 2016 Campaign, but have not completed your payments, I hope that you will be able to do so soon. Again, I thank all contributors for donations of your hard-earned funds.
Soon, our annual film festival will begin. Our community enjoys these events and the committee works hard to ensure success. Thanks to all involved who are ably chaired by Susan Hubal. Please attend and consider participating in the future. In partnership with the Jewish Community Center, we hope to recreate an ethnic festival next year, which will not be as broad in scope as the wonderful ones of years past, but will pay tribute to whom we are. If you are interested in participating in this event, please contact Sima Auerbach, our executive director, or Sheryl Brumer, the JCC executive director. We have sponsored the 92 Y programs, which are now on hiatus.
At Binghamton University, the Judaic Studies Department continues to grow under Randy Friedman’s leadership. This helps bring new vitality to our community through its enthusiastic students. We have to enroll them in our efforts. Chabad continues to be vibrant and a link between BU students and the greater community. Rivki Slonim’s JLI classes are a great learning experience for our community. Hillel at Binghamton is very active and continues to grow. The College of Jewish Studies, now chaired by Rhonda Levine and assisted by Marti Klionsky, continues to provide excellent lectures and discussions that inform the community about our Jewish culture, heritage and history.
We are the smallest Jewish community in the nation with a Jewish day school. We support this endeavor and will continue to do so. The classes are smaller than during the hay-day, but, with more than 30 students attending, they are stable. Hillel Academy has moved into its new facility at Temple Israel and will complete its first year there. We wish Hillel success as it trains our future leaders. The PJ Library provides books to young families that will enrich their children and encourage learning throughout life.
Jewish Family Services continues to provide emergency help for those in need. Roz Antoun has ably managed this agency for years. Our Jewish community contains some who have struggled to meet their daily expenses, while others need interpersonal interactions. Your financial and voluntary support helps take care of the less fortunate among us, giving them greater dignity.
The Reporter Group publishes papers for our community and several other Jewish communities. We depend upon this source of communication for our local activities and the greater Jewish related world. Despite the changes throughout the newspaper industry, Executive Editor Rabbi Rachel Esserman has been able to guide this agency through these impacts. After more than 20 years as chairman of The Reporter Editorial Board Chairman Rob Neuberger is stepping down and will be replaced by Rachel Coker. I thank him for his hard work and wish Rachel well in this endeavor. 
The Jewish Community Center provides facilities for athletic, educational, social and cultural activities for the Jewish and greater community. Our Federation offices are housed within this space. Over the years, we have provided funds for upgrades and maintenance of the facilities and activities of the JCC. The JCC provided a home for the Temple Israel synagogue membership after the 2013 roof collapse and during the two-and-one-half year rebuilding process. Our community is gracious and supportive. We consider the JCC our partner in helping to fulfill the needs of this community.
Our community’s spiritual life is active. Three local synagogues provide services for interested parties. Beth David is a modern Orthodox shul, which houses the community mikvah. Temple Concord is a liberal Reform synagogue, which also houses the Hannukah House Museum. Temple Israel provides an egalitarian Conservative environment; the membership chose to rebuild in an era when many such kehillot have closed. Temple Israel has recently engaged Rabbi Geoffrey Brown as full-time spiritual leader and we welcome him to our community. Rabbis Zev Silber and Barbara Goldman-Wartell have served their respective synagogues for many years. The three synagogues cooperate wherever possible. For those seeking a Chasidic environment, Chabad led by Rabbi Aaron Slonim, meets those needs.
Donations to Federation help our member agencies. More importantly, your voluntary efforts help enrich our community life. As a volunteer led organization, Federation cannot succeed without you. I thank all involved. All support is critical, no effort or donation is too small. Such impact upon our community would not be possible without the work of Executive Director Sima Auerbach and Administrative Assistant Jennifer Kakusian. 
As a member of the National Federation movement, we support peaceful efforts on behalf of Israel and international Jewry. Some limited funds go to help alleviate poverty and distress outside of our country. I express my hope that efforts among nations of the Middle East will lead to greater peace between Israelis, Palestinians and the Muslim majority nations of the region. As we recognize the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, we wish for a day when neighbors can avoid such bellicose events. I understand that some issues are centuries-old. But, in the words of our daily prayers, we wish for peace.
In the 78 years since the founding of your local Federation, we have provided support to enrich the Jewish cultural life in Greater Binghamton. We may be smaller in size, but we remain large in effort and in effect. As we adapt to the future needs and abilities of our community, we remain vital and vibrant. With your help, we will be successful for many years. Thank you and congratulations for your work and your support. I wish all a joyous and healthy summer.