The following speech was delivered on Kol Nidre to Congregation B’nai Tikvah, North Brunswick, by Adrienne Ross, Congregation B’nai Tikvah Past President and Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey Board member.
It is my pleasure to speak to you tonight on behalf of Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ and extend their wishes for a Happy, Healthy New Year and wishes that everyone be sealed in the Book of Life and Good Health.
We have just completed the Kol Nidre prayer. For me, as I am sure for many of you, this prayer brings about many images that are central to Jewish life. Whether those memories are brought about by recalling hearing Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, the Cantor you grew up with or our own Cantor Rockman, the haunting melody has always been a call to my Judaism and the central themes we are taught. (Cantor Rockman, this may be the only time you are compared with Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond). One of those central themes are to take care of K’lal Yisrael, the people of Israel….and taking care of the things we know are needed but sometimes ensuring resources are there for the “unknown” needs. It is the ability to take care of the known, and unknown, why Federation holds a special place in our community. Tonight, I want to share with all of us some of those things.
What lies ahead in the new year—for each of us as individuals, for many of us together as a community, and for ALL of us collectively as a Jewish people—is both known and unknown. It is yet to be completely revealed. It is yet to be sealed. The known is “easy,” the unknown requires a level of preparedness.
Certainly, we know that there will be people in our midst, who experience hunger, who cannot pay for both nutritious meals AND their medicine and utilities. We also know Federation is behind partners delivering Kosher Meals on Wheels. And we can rely on Federation to find new sources of funding for related aid to seniors and Holocaust survivors.
But we don’t know when the next crisis will occur, when Federation and its partners stand ready with humanitarian aid, as in the Ukraine war or rockets in Israel or natural disaster decimating Jewish communities in places like Hawaii and Morocco, or for the family here who suddenly loses a loved one and cannot afford a Jewish burial. Federation must be ready to address the unknown as well.
We do not know how antisemitic threats may evolve in the new year but, unfortunately, I am not naïve to believe they won’t be there. Thanks to our Federation’s initiatives, we continue to tackle this on multiple fronts.
Just this year, Federation’s advocacy was largely responsible for passage of a new state law requiring public K-12 schools take steps to improve Holocaust education addressing antisemitism. While we may have cheered the new law, we also needed to be ready to help with implementation to overcome any obstacles that could be raised. Our Federation was in Trenton, providing live testimony to ensure this important measure is carried out—to ensure that, as a Jewish community we pursue the promise of Never Again.
Thanks to Jewish Federation Security Initiatives, our entire community’s critical security infrastructure allows safe participation in Jewish life—in high holiday services like this, in fact.
And we know all about the trends among young people today—we don’t need a major national study to see that participation in Jewish life is happening at lower rates and is far from assured among future generations.
But here’s what we don’t know: we don’t know what will land with different kids. What will speak to them, what will move them, what will make the flame in their Jewish soul burn a little brighter.
Some may discover their connection through social action, volunteering. Others may experience the joy of Jewish tradition at summer camp. Federation supports transformational experiences like these for future generations to embrace the sweetness of Jewish life. And, of course, our Federation doesn’t just focus on teens. We begin at the earliest stages helping young families build a Jewish bookshelf through the gift of PJ Library –funded by our Federation.
It is moments like these—the moments we can anticipate, the moments we strive to make happen intentionally, and the moments we cannot foresee but nonetheless MUST respond to—that make up the moments in a Jewish year.
With our help, Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ will continue making countless moments of Jewish pride, care, connection and safety possible… taking care of the known and the unknown.
If you have not yet made a Federation Annual Campaign pledge, please consider fulfilling this mitzvah and answering the call and give generously. Partner with our greater community to take care of our community.
On behalf of Andy and myself, and the leadership of Jewish Federation in Heart of NJ, Shana tovah. Good yontif. And g’mar chatima tovah.