Looking ahead with Federation’s president-elect Gary Fromer

Gary Fromer is no stranger to the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley. He and his wife, Dr. Carol Bub Fromer, have long been involved and served as co-chairs of the Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs for the past two years. Now, Fromer is taking on a new challenge as Federation’s president-elect. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Fromer to ask about his perspectives and priorities as he approaches this new role.

Q: When did you first get involved with Federation and why?
A: My introduction to Federation began a little over 20 years ago, when Carol and I moved to the Lehigh Valley. Carol’s parents, Dr. Sam and Sylvia Bub, had been leaders, donors and volunteers for our Federation from the time of their emigration from South Africa to Allentown in 1977. Through them, we participated in annual major donor and campaign events and became engaged as volunteers and donors ourselves.

Q: What does the Lehigh Valley Jewish community mean to you?
A: We have been blessed to live in a unique Jewish community with a breadth of world-class Jewish professionals, clergy and programs that enrich our lives. Over the years, we have benefitted from a variety of programs at our Jewish Community Center, a top-notch Jewish education for our children at our Jewish Day School, wonderful synagogues, a great Chabad, a Jewish Family Service that serves those in our community in need – and the list goes on. It is amazing to take a glance at our “Community Calendar” (www.jewishlehighvalley.org/calendar) – we have multiple Jewish education and enrichment programs every day in our small community.

Q: What do you hope to achieve over the next few years?
A: First and foremost, I want to make sure that our community is in a position to sustain our Jewishness now and beyond the foreseeable future. Preferences and expectations change over time. Our community agencies must evolve to satisfy those new preferences and expectations. I’m certain that achieving sustainability will require us to simplify our agency governance structures, to test creatively new services and funding models and to integrate certain services across our Jewish agencies. At the same time, as we modernize our own community, we must and will continue to support Jews in need in Israel and abroad – whose circumstances unfortunately may be much more dire.

Q: That sounds like a big effort. How can we go about it?
A: We are blessed with a wide diversity of bright, talented and motivated lay leaders and professionals. Experienced, energetic, passionate. Yes, there is a different energy level needed to execute change successfully. But it is well within our capability. After all, we don’t need to build all new local agencies or build a new State of Israel–our predecessors did that for us. All we need to do is to provide support and proactively evolve into the future. We have a Reform rabbi who regularly attends services at our Orthodox synagogue. We have a Chabad rabbi who lights a menorah at center ice during a hockey game each Chanukah. Our JCC executive director and our JDS head of school made two joint program proposals this spring. Our Conservative synagogues in Allentown and Bethlehem have done camping trips together. We are able to fund and operate a mikvah and kosher commission and deliver kosher meals to those in need locally. JFS provides counseling, outreach and a food pantry for all Jews in the Lehigh Valley. And we are able to provide for Jews in need in Israel and abroad. What can’t we accomplish if we have a vision and act collectively?