From the Desk of Judy Alperin
CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven
The past few months have been challenging for our community and the world Jewish community. The scourge of anti-Semitism that has plagued our people for millennia has exploded in countries across the globe, in cities and towns and most horrifically in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 27, when a murderous gunman killed 11 souls in the Etz Chaim-Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.
Even here in New Haven County, we have not been immune to hatred and intolerance. We’ve seen the ugly swastika drawn on bridge overpasses, age-old anti-Semitic tropes about money-hungry Jews lobbed at Jewish Connecticut political candidates, and nasty hurtful canards and threats launched at students in the halls of local schools and soccer pitches.
The Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven takes the safety and security of our community very seriously. In addition to working closely with our national partners at Secure Community Network (SCN), the Israel Action Network (IAN), and local and national partner, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), our Federation has launched two new security committees under the leadership of Federation Vice President Evan Wyner.
One committee is tasked with the safety and security of our community campus and buildings, and the other is tasked with collaboration between all area synagogues and agencies around security. In addition, our Jewish Community Relations Council continues to lobby state and national officials on issues related to security and security funding.
There will always be those who will seek to destroy us. This is a familiar story throughout Jewish history. And while this theme is prevalent, the outcome has always been the same. When shook from any sense of comfort and complacency, Jews act. We band together. We seek to enhance the bonds that unite us. We search for commonalities that we can build upon so we can be stronger together. And each and every one of us is critical to building our collective Jewish future.
John Ruskay, the former CEO of UJA Federations of New York is often asked how the Federation could help so many in the immediate aftermath of horrible events such as 9-11 and Superstorm Sandy. His answer is always the same—the Federation was able to respond the day after the tragedies because it was strong and vibrant and doing all it needed to do the day before the tragedy. Every day, our Federation is working to strengthen the bonds that unite our Jewish community within the Jewish community of Greater New Haven, within the Greater New Haven community, with Jewish communities across the world and especially with Israel.
We need each and every person to feel a sense of pride and ownership of our community and a responsibility to care for the other. After all, we are taught, Kol arevim zeh b’zehthat all Jews are responsible for one another.
In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh massacre, we experienced something phenomenal in our community as 1,000 people from all walks of life descended upon the JCC to participate in a community vigil. Speaking at the vigil were faith leaders from across the Jewish community as well as clergy from the Episcopal, Methodist, AME churches and Muslim community. In the ensuing days, we received warm outpourings of support from the Catholic community and the Palestinian community among others.
It is imperative that we work together to strengthen and solidify our Jewish communal institutions but that they do not exist in silos. We can celebrate the delicious diversity within our community and still understand that we are one Jewish community. And while it may sound somewhat self-serving, we must all work to strengthen the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven. The Federation will continue to educate, inform, train, and find better ways to communicate so that we can enhance our preparedness as we pray that we will never have to use our training.
Recently, the Federation brought our community institutions together to collaborate with the FBI.
On November 29, the Federation held an Active Shooter Training with our partners at Secure Community Network. Then we convened a meeting with representatives across our community to discuss security preparedness and the need to be able to push communications across our communal institutions so that heaven forbid something happens at one, all campuses and buildings can immediately respond.
As we saw at the Tree of Life shooting, the rabbi had recently gone through training and while it differed from his usual practice, he had his cell phone with him and on that Shabbat. That alone saved many lives.
But security is not the only area where collaboration is beneficial. Jewish learning is also a major community priority. We will continue to partner with efforts to engage the Jewish community through education, commemoration and celebration.
We can seize this moment to strengthen our community and ensure a future for ourselves, our children and our great-grandchildren, because we are stronger together.