I am writing from our other Jewish homeland, Florida, where I am spending time with folks who have strong ties to our Greater Hartford community. Conversations often begin as reminiscences of times gone by, when Super Sunday drew hundreds of volunteers and Federation's Annual Campaign topped $6 million. A time when the economy was booming and our children remained in Connecticut because jobs were plentiful and opportunities for financial success were easily available. These same conversations conclude by talking about our children and grandchildren: Do they live in Connecticut? Are they engaged in Jewish life? Does our community have the same attachment to the mission of the Federation as it did so many years ago? The good news is that we have wonderful positive memories of the past... and things are changing for the better, with new opportunities presenting themselves.
In this week's Torah portion, B'shalach, we begin the story of the exodus from Egypt and the journey through the desert, a trek that would last 40 years. This journey would effectively result in the emergence of a new generation of Israelites with a new perspective formed free from the bonds of slavery, and a vision of the future far more hopeful than their parents'. This new generation was poised to become the foundation for a new Jewish nation.
While our Greater Hartford story might be different, the lessons of B'shalach remain relevant. We need to embrace the future and do what we can to free the next generation from the bonds of old ideas and the comfort of the status quo. Giving up what we know has worked in the past for a future that is less certain and fraught with challenges can be extremely unsettling. But the future will come whether we embrace it or not.
This past weekend, 1,400 women from around the globe joined hands at the International Lion of Judah Conference in Miami. Women representing the full breadth of our diverse Jewish community came together to celebrate the impact women have on the global Jewish community. We were so proud when Judy Zachs opened the conference onstage with her daughter-in-law and granddaughters, all women of impact in their own right. We also took pride in honoring Leigh Newman, this year's recipient of the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award; her leadership in our community is an example for all of us to follow.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the conference was the number of younger women who participated, declaring their commitment to continue the legacy of earlier generations and to lead our Jewish community into the future in ways we can only imagine.
May they go in strength, building upon the great work of those who came before them... and may we all rejoice in their decision to boldly go where no one has gone before!
President and CEO
Photo caption: The women of the Zachs family onstage at the International Lion of Judah Conference.