Friends, this week I have asked Heather Fiedler, our Federation's Associate Vice President of Jewish Education and Leadership, and Miriam Brander, a Program Officer in our Planning and Community Impact department, to share some inspiring information about a program that is bringing us together to understand one another better. Shabbat Shalom! - Howard
Thirteen children is a lot for any family! In this week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, Jacob starts his family - and each of his children receives a name tied to the circumstances of his or her birth or reflecting a personal trait.
It's not difficult to imagine what a family dinner table may have been like in Jacob's home: twelve boys and one girl, lots of different types of people talking, sharing ideas, arguing and ultimately realizing that, through all of their differences, they truly are one family.
This week we were privileged to have a similar experience in our community. As a family, we at Federation have done some thinking about who we are and what we believe. We realized that the people who make up our family include people of many faiths as well as Jews who practice and express their Judaism in a variety of ways. So we asked the questions: What would it mean for us to learn together? What would we better understand about each other and about the Jewish community as a whole?
We invited the staff of the Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation, JTConnect, Jewish Family Services, the Mandell JCC and the Jewish Historical Society to gather for a "lunch and learn" about being Jewish. Rabbi Tuvia Brander of Young Israel of West Hartford, Rabbi Michael Pincus of Congregation Beth Israel, and Rabbi Jim Rosen of Beth El Temple helped us understand different denominations within Judaism - a lofty task for a short period of time. Each rabbi shared his knowledge, insights, humor and enthusiasm in a way that was both highly informative and accessible. They inspired each of us, Jewish and non-Jewish, to consider where we stand in this continuum of time, space and faith. Through the thoughtful and respectful way they worked together, they represented what is best in our community - a point that was not lost on the participants.
"I came away with answers and yet more questions - and I felt more deeply connected to everyone in the room, and to the Jewish people and its history," said Kathryn Gonnerman, Director of the Center for Innovative Philanthropy at Jewish Community Foundation. Just as Jacob's family eventually learned the value of each member and his or her unique opinions and points of view, we too are realizing that when we learn together, we grow together.
Our core values at Federation include learning from the wisdom of our tradition (Torah), treating each other with caring and respect (chesed), and accomplishing more by including all (Klal Yisrael). As we learned together with our closest colleagues, we came to realize what rare and special qualities we have here in our Greater Hartford Jewish community: the ability to converse deeply and respectfully about our differences, and gifted, dynamic leaders who gracefully bring their communities and traditions together as one family around the dinner table.
Associate Vice President, Jewish Education and Leadership
Program Officer, Planning and Community Impact