Hope and Optimism, 5783

“Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. Hope is the belief that we can make things better. … It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to hope.”
— Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of England (1991-2013)

Coming through challenging times gives us a sense of purpose. We keep going, not given any promise of certainty that everything will be okay. But if we just keep going, doing what we must and doing what makes sense, then by this very definition, we have hope.

While the 2022 Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs went well, there were a few unique challenges that I am certain many organizations faced. We found ourselves vacillating between in-person and/or Zoom events, and while many community members were excited to get together in person, many were not yet comfortable. This made planning a bit tricky, and we found ourselves negotiating a hybrid model for almost every event. We were pleased to hold a few of our campaign events in person, including our annual meeting. The ability to engage with one another is what makes our programming special.

A more significant challenge of 2022 was our version of the “great resignation.” After having an amazingly stable staff team, with some staff in place for more than 15 or 20 years, we found ourselves in the position of having to replace five full-time staffers. While this was a concern at some points, I am so delighted to report that we have a dynamic staff compliment in place to begin our 2023 program/campaign year and we are looking forward to new and creative ideas. We now have a new director of finance and administration, a new director of gift planning, a new director of marketing, a new associate director of campaign, and a new editor/copywriter of our Hakol newspaper. As you can see, these are significant changes with a comprehensive onboarding process, and we are ready to welcome the new year. (See the New Year section of this issue for short bios of all the Federation staffers ready to work with you in the new year.)

During the summer, we also took the opportunity to do a “tech audit” of all our computer equipment and systems to ensure the integrity and security of our data and, again, we are so pleased to be in a good position. Plans for the 2023 program year are shaping up, and we anticipate our new, high-energy team making it a success. We also look forward to celebrating Israel at 75 and to reengaging with our community members.

It is at this time of year that I feel especially hopeful. For me, Rosh Hashana, the start of a new year, brings spiritual optimism that the coming year promises to be better than the one before. As we usher in a new year, I feel the excitement of optimism, hope, promise, renewal and resilience. This is a beautiful time to renew our commitment to engage and to ensure the vibrancy of our Jewish community as we transition from the past to the future individually and communally.

The concept of tikun olam (repairing the world) is an expression of the value of making our world a better place. The world may not be perfect, but we have the opportunity to help improve it. What stands out for me is the commitment of you, our noble volunteers, who are doing the important work to strengthen our community. Judaism teaches us that people must play an active role in the world. It enables us all to take part in nourishing and enriching our community.

The Jewish Federation’s 2023 campaign slogan, Here for Good, means that the Federation is here to provide resources, strength and support to help build and sustain flourishing Jewish life at home, in Israel and around the world. We are here for good, we have been and we will be for generations to come.

Despite past challenges, we are again gearing up for the many activities that will take place both here at the Federation and in the community. The Federation’s Major Gifts, Women’s Philanthropy and Maimonides Society events are all driven by your goodness to create successful and meaningful Jewish engagement.

Our synagogues and agencies are also kicking off the new year with programs that engage community members and enhance our Jewish community’s vibrancy. The fall calendar is beyond full!

The Jewish Day School and the school at the Jewish Community Center, as well as religious schools at synagogues, are embracing the start of a new school year.

A new program year has all organizations preparing to implement their plans to improve Jewish life in the Lehigh Valley. As we welcome a new year together, let us all be reminded that we are Here for Good and hopeful that it will be a year of optimism, promise, renewal and resilience.

Best wishes for a healthy, sweet and joyous new year, too! Shanah tovah!