By Rockland Federation President Lisa Green
For me, the best part of the Jewish holidays was looking forward to them each year. Coming from a large family, it was always our time to get together. It was our time to sit together at holiday meals, our time to cook together in the kitchen, and our time to play with the children at the table. I became an aunt when I was 12 years old and by the time I was 20, I already had 7 nieces and nephews. Today I have 14 nieces and nephews and many of them have children of their own.
I have always looked forward to raising a child with the same love of Judaism that I had growing up, and I am glad to say that my daughter does share that love. She looks forward to dipping the apple in honey for Rosh Hashanah, having a candy apple for Simchat Torah, and of course getting presents for Chanukah.
Unfortunately, I worry that she won’t be able to pass that love on to her children. My daughter is adopted from China and since she had a conservative conversion, her right to be recognized as Jewish in Israel is in jeopardy. I wonder if one day she will wake up disillusioned, feeling that her love of Judaism was misplaced. Why did she love something so strongly that didn’t love her back.
I also worry that the synagogues, which were always the vibrant center of Jewish life, are struggling to survive. Many synagogues are facing financial pressures because of decreasing numbers of affiliated families. Every week it seems like I hear of another synagogue struggling. Just last week I went to a Shiva for a family member out on Long Island, and they were saying that their synagogue may close its doors.
People always ask why I do all that I do for Federation. It is because of these fears. Fear that the Judaism I love won’t be around in the future. Fear that our children won’t have the same access to rabbis and synagogues as we did. Fear that what we have left of our religion will be something that doesn’t give comfort to those looking for spiritual guidance. That our traditions with their attached wisdom -- like apples and honey for a sweet New Year -- won’t survive.
I know that Federation is our voice that allows us to raise our concerns. Federation can speak out on behalf of the Jews in North America to make sure that Israel is there for all Jews. Federations across the country are looking at ways to inspire the younger generation and ways to strengthen our synagogues. Federation is here protecting all Jewish people and allowing Judaism to flourish.
With everything Federation does internationally and in the U.S., we can’t lose sight of what it does right here in Rockland. Federation is supporting local Jewish agencies including JCC Rockland, Rockland Jewish Family Service, The Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education and Hillel at RCC, making sure they have the funds to support their programs. Federation is helping the synagogues that belong to the Board of Rabbis through programs like RJI and Rockland and Jewish. And this past year Federation made it its mission to “weave the community together” with meetings and a trip to Israel to allow us to get to know each other better and work together for the common good.
Our community is better because of Federation’s help, but we need your help to make all that Federation does possible. I hope that you will give generously to Federation this year, as we start our new campaign 2018, knowing that your gift is helping so many.
I wish everyone a Shana Tova; may you all have a Happy New Year, and through the joy of the holidays may we all share in our love of Judaism.