On Monday, an overflow crowd attended Jewish Federation and Foundation of Rockland County’s annual meeting. It was made up of federation supporters and families and friends of the honorees. Lisa Green, who completed her tenure as federation co-president, was feted for her philanthropic and volunteer support and her vision. Speakers talked about Ms. Green’s efforts to strengthen synagogue life by launching the Rockland Jewish Initiative, which led to more than 300 families and individuals joining one of Rockland’s 11 Conservative, Reform, and unaffiliated congregations. Ms. Green also was among the earliest backers of Gary Siepser’s Community Weaving initiative, which broke down institutional silos and expanded the role of the Rockland Federation.
“Lisa is quiet, in some ways unassuming, but you would be making a mistake to think that Lisa shy,” Mr. Siepser, the federation’s CEO, said. “With her thoughtful insight into how to deal with issues that impact Rockland County’s Jewish community, Lisa has been a force in molding federation response. She’s the one who grasped the potential that community weaving could build on and expand RJI, and it could transform institutional relationships. She just got it, and she kept the focus on collaboration and innovation.
“Lisa was a great partner. In her quiet way, she has had a very big impact. While Lisa will join the ranks of the federation’s past presidents, I know I’ll still be calling on her for advice and guidance.”
Roberta Seitzman, who has run federation’s very successful series of adult education program for years and is about to retire, also was honored. She taught nearly 100 adults in a typical year. “There’s no question that she will leave a void” Rabbi Paula Mack Drill of the Orangetown Jewish Center said. (Rabbi Drill is one of 11 teachers who also were honored that night.) “Roberta has a passion for adult Jewish education. You see it in how she has pursued a range of teachers, pulpit rabbis, and lay teachers alike. You see it in the classes that are offered.” This year, some of the more intriguing classes included “Hollywood and the Holocaust” and “Marc Chagall, the poet of Vitebsk.” As her last initiative, Ms. Seitzman launched a new arrangement with the Florence Melton School of Adult Learning. Classes will be offered at the Jewish Community Campus in the fall.
Mr. Siepser offered his vision of federation in 2020. “Yes, federation will remain a model of a compassionate and caring community. It will do the work that federation has traditionally done: provide for those who are most vulnerable, be a strong advocate for Israel, and bring the community together for collective action. Federation, through its Community Relations Council, will continue the fight against anti-Semitism by nurturing partnerships in the broader community with those who share the values of mutual respect and fair treatment of all. However, in 2020, federation will go further in its initiatives to strengthen the affiliated congregations and agencies. Because federation believes the future health of the Jewish community lies in a sound financial foundation, it will continue to make a very significant investment with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and its Life & Legacy program.”
At the annual meeting, federation celebrated the 31 people or families who have signed letters of intent promising to remember federation in their estate plan. The federation will actively encourage inter-organizational collaborations that will benefit both the participating organizations and the community. By way of example, Siepser noted federation provided third party consultation to two congregations that are looking to combine their buildings, a new PJ Library platform in partnership with the Rockland JCC to expand connections to young families, and a new leadership development program. All initiates are designed to help the participants more effectively deliver on their missions which are in alignment with federation’s purposes.
While the federation always has supported Israel initiatives — it allocates funds to the Jewish Agency for Israel and American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee — it recently launched a new initiative with the ORT school at K’far Silver, in the shadow of rocket fire from Gaza. (The school was evacuated recently when rockets landed near the campus.) The federation funded the renovation of class space and is now planning more personalized connections. At the Rockland meeting, Dr. Conrad Giles, World ORT president, in a video message, thanked the community for its investment in the students at K’far Silver and the future of Israel.
The meeting closed with federation’s new co-presidents, Stephen Cohn and Steve Gold, taking the podium and noting “that this is a time of transition for the Jewish world and federation, and we are fortunate to be able to build on the solid foundation that has been handed to us.”