Summary of 2021-2022 Annual Campaign Kickoff Event
The Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut would like to thank all of our community members who participated in our Annual Campaign Kickoff, along with the more than 120 people who watched the event over Zoom. The theme of our Kickoff was “Habonim” or “the builders”. Throughout the program, we emphasized the ongoing effort of the Federation to build a more vibrant and united Jewish community in Western and Northwestern Connecticut.
Our President Pauline Zimmerman welcomed the Federation’s supporters to the program and detailed the many ways that the Federation reaches out to and supports all of the Jewish institutions and all of the Jewish communities in our Region. She also reminded the viewers that the Federation needs the help of our community to fulfill its mission.
Our Executive Director Gary Jones detailed six specific areas in which the Federation provides services and benefits to our community institutions and the Jewish people in our Region generally, including:
1) Providing direct financial support to institutions and individual community members through our robust allocation and grants funding; 2) Events and Programs; 3) Legislative and Political Leadership; 4) Support for Israel; 5) Combatting Antisemitism; and 6) Jewish Communal Security generally, and specifically in the hiring of Regional Security Advisor to advise all of our community's Jewish institutions. Gary emphasized the unique ability of the Federation to provide these services and benefits.
Board Member Lisa Miller then introduced our featured speaker, Ambassador Meron Reuben, Consul General of Israel to New England. Ambassador Reuben started his remarks by thanking the Federation, noting that when Israel was attacked by thousands of rockets and missiles from Hamas, we were among the first Federations to release a public statement to the community in support of Israel’s efforts to protect its citizens. He then went on to discuss his first year as Consul General to New England and noted the challenges and the opportunities he was encountering. He also spent a good deal of time addressing questions posed by our community members. We are all indebted to the Ambassador for his kind words about our Federation, for the time he devoted to our community and for his leadership. We look forward to having him come to our community so that we can meet and speak with him on a personal basis.
The next part of our program was devoted entirely to our constituent institutions and the individuals they chose to be Habonim award recipients. Our Federation leaders understand that for the Jewish community of Western and Northwestern to be strong and vibrant, we need to support all of our Jewish organizations. As a result, we wanted to recognize the people who have been so instrumental to all of our Jewish institutions in our Region. We were thrilled that six synagogues and the Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life took the time to designate one or more of their leaders to be recognized by our entire community. Below you will see a separate article devoted to the ceremony honoring Habonim award winners. That article includes a short description prepared by the presenter of the each organization and a photo of each award winner. We know you will enjoy reading about all the wonderful people who are so devoted to the Jewish community and the institutions that make it work. We look forward to continuing to honor Habonim of Western and Northwestern Connecticut in the future.
Finally, Board Member Jill Schoenfuss ended the program by thanking the more than 120 community members who virtually attended the program and the many people who worked so hard to make the program successful. She reminded the audience that we need their financial support. We are concluding this report with another reminder of the need for all of you to help your Federation in any way that works for you.
We work hard every day to make Jewish life in our part of the State better. During the Kickoff event, we endeavored to demonstrate specific instances in which we accomplish that goal. We have already received 45 gifts associated with our Campaign Kickoff. For those of you who have already given so generously, we thank you. For those of you haven’t contributed yet, now is the time for you to help us do even more. Please click the “donate now” button or contact our office to discuss your gift. Gary Jones, our Executive Director, will be glad to meet with you or discuss your gift over the phone. THANK YOU!
B’nai Israel is delighted to honor and highlight their Director of Sacred Music, Linda Goodman, and her husband, Dan Goodman. Together they comprise a dynamic duo of service and a mutually supportive team who give so much to the congregation and the entire Jewish community.
Howard Lapidus began his time as President of the Temple Shalom New Milford at the height of the COVID crisis and is being recognized for his help in leading the synagogue over these last 18 months with strength and courage. Cantor Laura Breznick expressed her gratitude at having Howard by her side during these times.
Barry Abrams and Neil Friedman are being celebrated by the United Jewish Center in Danbury for their service as the organization’s Tech Team. They were crucial to keeping the congregation “open” while the building was closed, which would not have been accomplished without both of them.
David and Mat made extraordinary contributions in establishing virtual services for our Adath Israel community from scratch! David was the architect in so many ways. David worked to identify the right streaming platform and hardware requirements, and he also smartly integrated all of this into our audio system in the sanctuary. Mat became an early volunteer as we began more regular programming to relieve David and soon became a regular expert and much-needed resource in delivering these services each and every week. All of us never get to see what is behind the scenes, but David and Mat are true builders in creating tremendous new offerings and outreach and thoughtfully given their valuable time to ensure all of the Adath Israel community has had access to our services.
Dr. Ezra Friedman of Dental Health Associates in Wolcott is an outgoing board member of B’nai Shalom in Waterbury. He is being honored for his significant contributions over the last 18 months to the members of B’nai Shalom, as well as to the Greater Waterbury/Wolcott communities.
Danbury Sarah Namer is being praised as Ritual Committee CoChair along with Dr. Charles Chan (no photo) for Congregation B’nai Israel. They have taken great pride in encouraging members to volunteer for leading and reading parts of zoom services, and in so doing retained a cohesive community.
Barbara Weisblatt is being recognized for her exemplary determination to keep the Congregation B’nai Israel community connected, cared-for and well informed with phone calls and message to each and every member of the congregation.
Mark Takken is a Congregation B’nai Israel high school senior volunteer who is being honored for chanting Torah expertly and regularly as well as leading service portions, while also meeting challenging academic workload.
Paul Simon (no photo) is being honored as the Tech and Logistics Maestro par excellence for Congregation B’nai Israel in Danbury. Paul has kept members tuned into services that ran smoothly and facilitated participation in all meetings and events as well as coordinating the necessary accouterments for all things Zoom.
Lois Schein-Lewis is commended by the Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life as the Chair the organization’s speaker series. When the pandemic first began in 2020 she jumped into action quickly to shift all programs online. Her leadership kept the Coalition deeply and meaningfully connected, expanded the speaker series, and built community.