We are one community

By: Sima Auerbach

This speech was given at Super Sunday on October 21.
First and foremost, Neil and I thank all of you who gave so generously and thoughtfully to the JCC Journal. What a book. Neil and I are touched by your donations and your beautiful words. We have each read the book at least three times. We made a home in this community and this community gave us a meaningful life here. Thank you all again.
Before I begin with my personal and hopefully motivating speech convincing you to donate generously, I want to take a special moment. On the table are the names of people who have received the Yasher Koach award since we started this in 2009. The idea was to honor individuals in the community for their commitment to a specific organization before the entire community, because in essence we are one community working together to keep us whole. Congratulations to each and every one of you who has received this award. Translating Hebrew and Yiddish phrases into English often misses the innuendo of meaning. Yasher Koach sort of means “may you go from strength to strength.” And it is because of your strength of commitment that this small community survives and flourishes. Will everyone who has ever received a Yasker Koach award please stand. Thank you!
Now on to the business of Super Sunday!
You may have gotten to your table, sat down, looked at the centerpieces and said to yourself, “What?” Which was exactly the response I got when I told a member of the board what I was going to do.
The name of the 2019 Campaign is a bit untraditional. I do not think another Federation in this country will ever use this expression. In the past, we went the traditional route and had Campaign slogans like “Together We do Extraordinary Things,” “The Strength of a People,” The Power of Community,” “One Man’s Candle is a Light for Many,” “Your Opportunity to Make a Difference,” “Nourish the Roots that Sustain Our Community,”... and others which were supposed to inspire you in a poetic and motivational way.
This year, I chose to stretch the purpose of a motivational phrase. It will be my last Campaign as executive director and so I decided to reach into my heart and take a leap.
The hopefully thought-provoking name for the 2019 Campaign is “The Front Porch.” In lieu of a motivational phrase, I am aiming for a nostalgic one. I have always loved a front porch. When we moved to Binghamton, I fell in love with the houses on the West Side and wanted a front porch. One day my granddaughter, Alina, and I went to an open house of a Victorian with a stone porch. She said, “Bubbe – you have to buy this house.” I replied quietly, “Alina, I can’t afford this house.” But I still drive by and look at that porch. I didn’t quite get a front porch, but our house has a stoop and a landing, and so I put two black chairs with cushions on the landing and voila – my very own personal sort of front porch.
The front porch was most often the heart and soul of the house. People sat there, drank lemonade and talked. Stories were shared, the past, present and future were discussed, and sometimes even decisions were made. It was a meeting ground, the foundation for families and the gathering place.
And that is what the Jewish Federation is for this community – our front porch. The foundation of the community and the gathering place. Each Jewish organization here is entitled to send two people to our meetings, as well as the members you voted in this morning. It is the front porch, the gathering place for ideas, for coming together, for thinking about the community as a whole. It is amazing to see that the board members who might be representing a specific organization walk into the meeting as a member of the Jewish Federation. The community is the focus. And for me, the Federation is, yes, “The Front Porch” – talking about ways to help fill that proverbial sack I keep putting in The Reporter to help those organizations and people in need, trying to figure out the future, coming together to share a meal, watch a movie together.
P.S. There will be a Film Fest in the spring. Come and get involved. Susan Hubal is the chair – contact her.
So, our Campaign this year will be one of recollection and moving forward, of reminiscences and possibilities. Please send me stories of your memories of the Federation: What it did, what worked, what failed. Did you like when there was a women’s and men’s Campaign? Or like it better as one? Things are all about perspective. How do you see things? And I would like to know.
Going a bit off track about perspective. My mother was the daughter of a Chasidic rabbi in “Ukrainah” as she used to say and would tell me about her childhood. She once mentioned that in her house in Tulchin, the men and women had separate dining rooms, I was appalled. That women’s rights equality piece in me rose up and I said, “How did you stand for that, etc. etc. etc?” She looked at me (my mom lived in our home after my father died) and she calmly and quietly said, “Your female friends all congregate in the kitchen and the men are sitting in the living room. It’s not very different.” Perspective – I would like to learn yours about the Federation.
What was good about the Federation in the past? What do you remember? Send them to me or meet me at the front porch – i.e. the Federation office – and we will talk and reminisce and, with your permission, put something in The Reporter. Rabbi Rachel [Esserman] and I have talked about having a column called “The Front Porch” – the topic being your looking back and looking ahead.
We want to invite you onto the front porch to help map out the future, to bring in all the Jewish people. You know perhaps even someone uninvolved – ask them to come to an event with you or join a committee with you. Invite them to your front porch, wherever that might be.
And… because I love a front porch and I love this unique Jewish community and this is my last Campaign, let’s make it the best. In 2018, we raised an unprecendented $280,000 from 370 donors. Truly remarkable. This year, let’s do better. Let’s raise the roof on the porch and set our goal at $300,000. Increase your past gift with an amount that is comfortable for you. Raising your gift does not mean you have to give up something – it simply means that the Jewish Federation is worth it and deserving of it. Donate today before you leave. There are donation slips on your table. Look at it. Think about our community and think again. Aren’t we worthy recipients of your generosity?
Together, we can reach $300,000. We cannot do it without you!