The Westchester Jewish Council began the new year by welcoming its leadership to the Annual Westchester Jewish Leadership Reception on September 5 at the JCC of Mid-Westchester. Serving as a kick-off to the Westchester Jewish Council’s program year, the evening’s goal was to present an update on community matters for the leadership of the Westchester Jewish Council’s 157 member organizations and local officials.
Lisa Roberts, president of the Westchester Jewish Council (WJC), welcomed everyone, acknowledging, “Your presence here especially during this very busy time of year speaks to the commitment we all share to work together as a community to enhance and enrich Jewish life in Westchester.”
The Jewish community of Westchester is the eighth-largest Jewish county in the U.S., with nearly 150,000 Jews. Roberts explained that WJC serves as the central communicating, coordinating, convening, advisory and resource organization in Jewish Westchester. With pride and enthusiasm, Roberts presented a detailed description of the varied work of WJC, which includes many signature roundtables, some in partnership with others like UJA-Federation and the Jewish Education Project; the interfaith and intergroup work in collaboration with AJC Westchester/Fairfield; the bi-weekly e-newsletter reaching over 7000 people; and the important work in the area of security—committed to raising the collective level of awareness and preparedness, and serving as a link between our elected officials and the Jewish community. The Westchester Shlichut initiative is another project of WJC, as is the Leadership Development Institute; the annual, alternating Night of Learning in partnership with the Westchester Board of Rabbis; and Night of Music and Joy with Kol Hassanim, the Cantors of Westchester, scheduled for November 17.
Since security is recognized as a top priority, on Tuesday morning, September 5, WJC convened their annual Security Briefing with local government and law enforcement officials and Jewish leadership, co-hosted by County Executive George Latimer, and the Westchester Intelligence Center of the office of the district attorney.
Roberts expressed her gratitude to WJC’s partnering organizations, with special recognition to UJA-Federation for its steadfast support. Bringing together “all of the leadership of our Jewish community, our synagogues, our agencies, our board members and elected officials, in an informal setting, provides an opportunity to create new and strengthen existing relationships as we begin to explore new ways to work collaboratively.” Roberts emphasized that “Westchester is a wonderful place to live. The Jewish community model we have created here is unique end special. We have learned to work together, to share and learn from one another, and to do what is good for the Jews. I dare say, no other JCRC can claim to do it better.”
Dr. Ellen Reinheimer, co-president, JCC of Mid-Westchester, shared her reading of an article, explaining that “neurons in our brain need to have a human connection.” She likened this bit of medical information to the way the Jewish community comes together to make human connections, and said by doing this, at the JCC and through the organizations of WJC, we all grow and extend our human journey.
Attending the event, the Hon. George Latimer, Westchester County executive, spoke about the importance of security and referred to the morning’s security briefing purposefully convened prior to Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot/Simchat Torah to ensure safety for the Jewish population of Westchester. He went on to say, “the leadership of Westchester county is the Jewish community… We stand with you. We stand side by side. Whenever there’s a threat to anyone in the community, it’s a threat to all.”
Introducing New York State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins, Latimer explained that she authored and helped pass landmark legislation, including Westchester County’s first human rights laws. Twenty plus years ago when Cousins introduced the Westchester Human Rights Commission, which seeks to promote dignity and respect by advancing justice, equality and education for the diverse community of Westchester county, the bill received strong support from the Jewish clergy of Westchester, along with members of the black and Christian communities. “If not for the rock-solid support and strength given to us by the Jewish community, the bill would not have passed,” Latimer said.
A highlight of the evening belonged to the “young folks” as the community met Nadav Shachmon, the WJC community shaliach, along with four shinshinim, Lior Malul, Carmel Mena, Adi Nulman and Yuval Shiran. Nadav charmed the audience with his proficiency using different accents, representing his life and friends all over the world—in Israel, where he was born; America; South Africa; England; and other areas. As a shaliach, Shachmon wants to bring Israel to life in the community, but he also wants to deliver back to Israel what he will learn from the Westchester community. He hopes to strengthen the connection between the two countries and help build a strong Jewish base, based on his programming and ideas.
Consul general of Israel in New York, the Hon. Dani Dayan, spoke about Israel today and its remarkable economic strength. “From the ashes of the the Holocaust…we built a country under difficult circumstances…and we are currently the eighth strongest country in the world.” He said that during Netanyahu’s leadership, Israel is no longer “the start-up nation,” but “the innovation nation.” Dayan spoke about the prosperity and ingenuity in Israel, especially in the software and technology areas. Of course, “we have challenges, but in our eighth decade of existence, we are living with great optimism, knowing we have a great partner, the Jewish community of New York.” As Jews, Dayan emphasized, we have extra obligations to (help) Ethiopian and Russian Jewry. “We need to keep the state of Israel robust and secure and we need to make sure the continuity of Jewish life exists in places (other than Israel) where Jews reside. The well-being of Israel and Jewish communities elsewhere are all connected.”
By Yvette Finkelstein