A New Year full of opportunity for our Jewish community
As we enter 2023, Moshe Kruger looks forward to an exciting year & beyond
Shalom Jewish Michiana--
Here at the Federation, we're ending the year on an optimistic note. Just ask the campers who had a fun-filled week of learning and play at Winter Camp Ideal. This is our second winter camp since I joined the Fed. Our children and youth programming has never been more robust or innovative under Dan Ravitch and Shirlee Greenwald's leadership.
We are excited to build on this momentum to expand our programming. Specifically, I've learned through my community listening that older adults are ready for more engagement. In 2023, the Federation will strive to become an "Adult Learner Friendly Institution."
Working with our congregational community partners, we can "up our game" in lifelong learning. Call me at 574-233-1164 or click here to email me your ideas for fostering greater community-wide collaboration to leverage our adult learning efforts.
Adult learning and youth development are essential building blocks for a bright future. NEXTGen is another critical building block. I'm bullish about this group and the potential they represent. Did you know we have four talented NEXTGen'ers on our Fed board? They are Joshua Brown, Sarah Feldbaum, Ben Finan, and Allen Stenberg.
I'm also optimistic that we can become what I like to call the best little Jewish town in America. Yes, this statement has swagger and pride, and it's loaded full of braggadocio. But why sell us short of what we can become?
Planting Seeds for the Future
And this brings us to the essential question: how do we envision our Target Future? Are we ready to test our collective community-building skills by asking what we want for ourselves, our families, our community, and our larger Jewish ecosystem?
True to our mission, the Federation as a communal organization will continue to play a catalytic role in building bridges to unite our Jewish community.
While our Orthodox community is stable and growing, I believe we need more streamlined, cost-effective denominational systems for our Conservative and Reform movements to continue to thrive locally. The national trend in small progressive Jewish-American communities is blurring lines for economic reasons. Some congregations have merged. And others have kept their traditions alive by widening the tent a little more to the right and left.
Here in Michiana, I'm not advocating, nor is there support for, our liberal movements to disappear. Indeed, we would be much poorer if these affiliations crumble. Yet, denominational membership organizations are evolving; we see this in our community.
Actualizing Capacity through a University-like Paradigm
As we approach the crossroads of our future, I'm intrigued by a university-like model for the Federation's role within our larger Jewish community. A University concept is pluralistic and inclusive. It offers a platform for learning and exploration. And a way to connect us to others and give us meaningful experiences to actualize our capacity to act more consistently with our highest selves.
In my community conversations, I've heard this type of Jewish university environment would be well-suited on the Federation's 28-acre campus. This community-building approach appeals to me because, as congregants, we are free to choose our particular brand of Judaism. We are free to decide how we want to express ourselves Jewishly.
Defining Organizational Goals and Objectives
The first step down this path towards a shared future is for each organization in our Michiana Jewish ecosystem to map out its individual strategic plan. I imagine each organization is at a different stage of planning and is approaching this task uniquely in its own way.
And if developing our individual plans is not challenging enough, I would like to know if there is interest and the will to share and cross-pollinate our respective plans into a comprehensive community plan. I've referred to this development plan as the aspirational three-year community plan integral to Vision 2025, a community-building framework.
Promoting Community Conversations through FED TALKS
The Federation wants to be an effective advocate to promote conversations around our shared future and how we build community. The Federation is rolling out its FED TALK series to fulfill this advocacy goal. Our first FED TALK event is with Aaron Perri, Executive Director of South Bend’s Venues Parks & Arts. Aaron will focus on the innovative transformation required to build a connected, vibrant, and sustainable community.
Come and be inspired. Please join us in person or online for our kick-off event on Sunday, January 15, at 10:30. Click here to register. A delicious Israeli brunch will follow.
Aaron's FED TALK will set the stage for FED TALK #2 on February 12. Mark your calendars. This TALK will narrow the focus on community building with a specific case study of how another small Jewish community with multiple congregations addressed its challenging future.
In preparing for FED TALKS, I've researched what other Jewish scholars and Rabbis say about community change. Below are some quotes you might find of interest. These quotes reinforce my optimism that the Federation can play a unique role in building our Jewish future boldly and creatively.
"We are all so much richer for the movements that American Jewish life has developed – each one problematic and glorious in its own way – a rich array of options converging and diverging on their paths up the mountain."
"Planning for the future will forcefully push forward questions we were already asking, about the purposes, priorities, structure, and ultimately, the necessity of each of our institutions. The task of denominational Judaism is "to make Judaism relevant, compelling, joyous, meaningful, welcoming, comforting and challenging" to Jews with infinite options."
"Our denominational movements, like every other institution, will not be immune. It is likely they will not disappear, but morph into forms more suited to the needs of the next moment of our communal life. This reflects an age-old pattern of Jewish life – the remarkable adaptability, inventiveness, and resourcefulness of Jewish culture, its genius for turning catastrophe into creativity."
I'll conclude my new year's essay with my quote. We end this year at the Federation with a profound appreciation for all you have done to support our beautiful and diverse community and a sense of hope for what we can continue to do together.
My optimism is, of course, tempered. We still have a long way to go, but 2022 has shown us that we are in a moment of opportunity.
We have an opening to build on this momentum and frame the issues to advance Jewish life in our community. It's on all of us to shape our vibrant community into a resource-rich environment that is healthy, secure, and supportive. 2023 is year one of Vision 2025. May it be a year that inclusively taps our human, economic, and natural capital to thrive and grow together.
May God strengthen our common bonds and teach us to celebrate our uniqueness.
Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley
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