Summary of 2022-2023 Annual Campaign Kickoff Event

The Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut would like to thank all of our community members who attended our Annual Campaign Kickoff Breakfast on Sunday. It was terrific to be together “live and in-person” after so long. In addition, our Board and staff are so grateful that so many people went out their way to let us know how much they enjoyed the entire program. The overriding purpose of the Campaign Kickoff event is to begin the year-long effort to raise the money necessary for the Federation to fulfill its mission, of course. However, we believe that the best way to do convince supporters to give generously is to demonstrate the irreplaceable role of the Federation in building a more united and vibrant Jewish community in Western and Northwestern Connecticut. Judging by the feedback, we think we did a good job in demonstrating that irreplaceable role.

In the next few paragraphs, I will provide a short synopsis of the program. We also encourage you to review the program in its entirety by clicking the video on the LEFT. Our President Pauline M. Zimmerman welcomed those assembled to the Breakfast, thanked the Federation Board Members and staff for all of their hard work and made the point that in all of its activities, the Federation’s main goal is to reach out to and support all of the Jewish institutions and Jewish communities in our Region.


I made the case for supporting the Federation by highlighting eight different ways that the Federation makes a difference to our community institutions and the Jewish people in our part of the State, specifically:


  1. We elevate and serve the needs of all of our community’s organizations;
  2. We provide meaningful grants, allocations and other financial support to an amazing variety of individuals and organizations in our community;
  3. We provide a wide variety of Jewish education and social programs;
  4. We engage in political advocacy and provide education in order promote the safety and security of the Jewish community and to promote Jewish values;
  5. We take a lead role in helping our community and our neighbors to support and stand up for Israel;
  6. We stand against Antisemitism and all forms of hate;
  7. We have contracted with Secure Community Network to provide all of our community organizations with expert security training, assessments and advice, all at no cost to our community organizations.
  8. We know how to respond to crises.


Please view the program to learn more about how the Federation provides all of these benefits.


We were extremely honored to have Senator Richard Blumenthal provide a very meaningful talk. Speaking with virtually no notes and clearly from the heart, the Senator documented his appreciation for the role of the Jewish Federation in protecting and leading the Jewish Community. He told the story of how his father fled Nazi Germany with little more than the shirt on his back. He talked about how he was proud to be a supporter of increased Nonprofit Security Grant funding that enhances the security of the Jewish community’s institutions, as well as other at-risk institutions.


However, he spent much of his talk addressing the Jewish value of “welcoming the stranger” and thanked our community for our efforts in supporting Afghan and Ukraine refugees. In that context, he specifically addressed the story of Nilab, the young woman who barely escaped Afghanistan while the rest of her family was not able to do so. I have written a lot about Nilab in our communications with the community, noting how both the Senator and the Federation met with her and are working to help Nilab. She, along with the American family who took her in and treats her like a daughter, and members of Team Nilab (a group assembled to provide support in her education and adjustment to the United States) were in attendance at the Kickoff Event. The Senator told Nilab and the rest of us gathered about his ongoing efforts to convince our government to do more to rescue American allies still in Afghanistan (like Nilab’s family).



After concluding his talk, the Senator was kind enough to present Certificates of the United States Senate congratulating our Burton Albert Habonim Award recipients. The Senator and his staff went out of their way to make our event special and to join in recognizing the four amazing people selected by our community institutions to be honored. We are all so grateful.


The next part of our program was devoted entirely to our constituent institutions and the individuals they chose to be honored with the Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut’s Burton Albert Habonim Award. Before the presentation of the awards, however, I explained why Pauline wanted to name the Habonim Award in honor of Burton Albert, a true pillar of our community who passed away in 2019. Once again, I encourage you to view the video of the event to see how special Burt was and why it so fitting that our “builders” award be named in his honor.


Below you will see a separate section of the message devoted to the ceremony honoring our Burton Albert Habonim Award winners. We know that you will enjoy learning about Lisi Green Marcus of United Jewish Center in Danbury; Kathleen Peck Marks of Temple Sholom in New Milford; Mrs. Chana Bassman of Yeshiva Gedolah in Waterbury and Patti Berkowitz of B’nai Israel Southbury. These four wonderful women do so much for the Jewish organizations who selected them to be award winners and make our entire community so proud.


  • Senator Richard Blumenthal

  • Gary Jones CEO of the Jewish Federation of Western CT

  • Gary Jones CEO of the Jewish Federation of Western CT, Pauline M. Zimmerman President of the Jewish Federation of Western CT, and Senator Blumenthal with the Jewish Federation of Western CT Burton Albert Habonim Award winners!

  • Lisa Miller Jewish Federation Program Co-Chair

  • Senator Richard Blumenthal, Nalib, Pauline M. Zimmerman, Merri Klar, Lina Rinaldi, Alexis Zimmerman, Mario Rinaldi

  • Mark and Patti Berkowitz, David and Deborah Augenbraun, Keith and Jane Mahler

  • Gary Jones, Mario Rinaldi, Lina Rinaldi, Pauline M. Zimmerman, Nalib, Cathy Conti

  • Dr. Ellen Polokoff, Merri Klar, Jeff Berkowitz, Matt Madiga, Rabbi Eric Polokoff

Finally, Board Member and Program Committee Co-chair Lisa Miller ended the program by thanking all those who attended and announced a number of Federation programs to be held over the next month or two. She also reminded the group that their ongoing support is vital to our continuing to be able to fulfill our mission as a Federation. We are concluding this report with another reminder of the need for all of you to help your Federation in a manner that works for you.





Please click the “Donate Now” button or contact me to discuss your gift, as well as any questions, suggestions or concerns you may have. THANK YOU!


Mrs. Chana Bassman - Burton Albert Habonim Awardee of Yeshiva Gedolah of Waterbury

Image on the right: Gary Jones, Pauline M. Zimmerman, Mrs. Chana Bassman – Burton Albert Habonim Awardee of Yeshiva Gedolah of Waterbury, and Rabbi Ahron Kaufman who presented the award on behalf of Yeshiva Gedolah of Waterbury.

Patti Berkowitz Burton Albert Habonim Awardee of B’nai Israel Southbury

Image on Right: Gary Jones, Pauline M. Zimmerman, Patti Berkowitz – Burton Albert Habonim Awardee of B’nai Israel Southbury, and Rabbi Eric Polokoff who presented the award on behalf of B’nai Israel Southbury.

Cantor Penny Kessler who presented the Burton Albert Habonim Awardee to Lisi Green Marcus of the United Jewish Center of Danbury

Image on Right: Gary Jones, Cantor Penny Kessler of the United Jewish Center of Danbury who presented the Burton Albert Habonim Award on behalf of UJC to Lisi Green Marcus, and Pauline M. Zimmerman.

Kathleen Peck Marks - Burton Albert Habonim Awardee of Temple Sholom of New Milford

Image on the Right: Gary Jones, Pauline M. Zimmerman, Kathleen Peck Marks – Burton Albert Habonim Awardee of Temple Sholom of New Milford, and Cantor Guy Bonne who present the award on behalf of Temple Sholom.

We look forward to more opportunities to build our Federation so that together we can create a more cohesive and vibrant Jewish community in Western and Northwestern CT.

Your continued support enables us to provide aid both locally and internationally, educational scholarships, camperships to our youth, and support to those in need.