‘I been blessed’

Years ago, my family was called up for an aliyah at our synagogue in preparation for our upcoming trip to Israel. As we were leaving the bimah, one of my then-4-year-old twins turned to me and said very excitedly, “I been blessed,” (and implying that all was right with the world).

The comment quickly became a funny expression in our family. And all these years later, it’s the first thing that came to mind when I was given the honor and privilege of becoming the executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley.

“I been blessed” because my passion and career endeavors parallel one another. For the past 30 years, I’ve come to work excited about what I could do to help the Jewish people. 

It’s something that was ingrained in me at an early age – from my parents, from excellent Hebrew school teachers, and, ultimately, from my first trip to Israel at age 15, a turning point in my life. On that six-week program with my Hebrew high school class, I fell in love with the land and the people. When I think about Israel and my own Jewish identity, I feel exuberant.

I’ve watched my children embark on their own Jewish education, including time spent in Israel. The tradition continues as my grandson begins his Jewish journey here at the Allentown JCC.

This community, like many Jewish communities around the world, is no doubt at an important crossroads. How will we grow? How will we make sure that that passion for Judaism that I feel – that many of us feel – gets passed on to the next generation?

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to students at our Jewish Day School. I talked to them about the importance of creating a kehillah kedosha – a sacred community. That with all of our agencies and synagogues working together, the Lehigh Valley Jewish community will remain vibrant and strong.

The Federation is an important piece of that puzzle, not just as a funder, but as a community convener. I am proud to be working with our Board of Directors, our volunteer leaders and our staff to bring us into the next chapter.

What will that chapter look like? I can tell you that the book about our community will not be written by a single author. It will be a collaborative piece, with essay and verse from many contributors. 

And as we move forward, I remain dedicated to keeping you apprised of the progress. I believe that transparency, accountability, focus and impact are the watchwords that will guide us.

There will be change, but not for the sake of change. We will be smart about the programs we implement, the programs we maybe adjust and the metrics we use to make these decisions.

We will keep our board and our donors informed and look to the community to provide feedback and hold us accountable.

This year’s campaign slogan is “it all starts with you.” I truly believe that it does. Our community is fortunate to have so many talented people with ideas to share and I want to hear them. I invite you to reach out to me by calling 610-821-5500 or emailing jeri@jflv.org. Your input is most welcome.

We have a great deal of work ahead of us and, with your help, we will celebrate many magnificent accomplishments. I look forward to meeting more of you one on one as we embark on this journey together and may we continue to go from strength to strength.