Friday, November 15, 2019

Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Rabbi Fredda Cohen. (Credit: Marc J Berger)

On Tuesday, September 24, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, together with the Westchester Jewish Council (WJC), invited Westchester’s Jewish leaders to the office of the county executive in White Plains for a Jewish heritage reception in celebration of Rosh Hashanah.

“I am very pleased that you can join us tonight, in our home area, so we can have a little networking, a little bit of friendship and to recognize our friends in the Jewish community just before we enter into the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah all the way through Yom Kippur,” began Latimer. “Westchester is a big, diverse family and we want to be able to celebrate with all of our brothers and sisters in that family. We also want you to know that folks who are from a variety of other communities are with you side by side in matters of security and matters of respect. Wherever there is an act of anti-Semitism, or an act to try to create fear, we all band together to push back against them.”

Latimer added. “We have tried to set in a different tone in county government and we have recognized this very early in our tenure. We have a lot to improve and we are trying very hard to do as good a job as we hope we can do over the course of the full term.” 

In closing, Latimer stated, “I really do think that being here tonight is just a way for us to interact informally and to continue to develop the bonds of friendship and relationship that we need to have if we are going to work together on public policy issues that matter so much.”

Following his welcoming remarks, Latimer introduced Rabbi Fredda Cohen, chaplain of White Plains Hospital, “to share words of spiritual enlightenment.” 

Cohen expressed, “Speaking personally, my Jewish heritage constitutes my very essence. I have been living in New York all my life, I am a proud Westchester resident, and even prouder American citizen,” adding, “But the fact is that if push came to shove, I could leave this county or this state and I can even take on different citizenship. I could not, however, change my Jewishness, which is as much a part of my personal identity as is my being a woman, a mother, a grandmother and a wife. The paradox is that as much as it is immutable for me, it is also very much a conscious and an intentional decision.’’ Cohen continued, “To borrow from the teaching of Rabbi ‘Yitz’ Greenberg, after the Holocaust, a Jew who affirms Jewishness is a Jew by choice, entering into a voluntary covenant.”

Cohen summarized, “My prayer for all of us here as we embark on the year 5780 is that we do so with a wide-open heart, a profound sense of gratitude and a deep yearning for justice, and then follow through with unfaltering and fearless acts, of kindness, beneficence and grace.”

By Judy Berger 

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