What You Mean to Our Jewish Community

Friends, in this week's Shabbat message Denis Geary, Executive Director of the Jewish Association for Community Living, explains what you mean to his organization and so many others. Shabbat Shalom. - Howard

When I was asked if I was interested in writing a "guest Shabbat message" in the place of traveling Federation CEO Howard Sovronsky, I said yes without really thinking. I won't lie; I'm second guessing that decision. I'm feeling a little intimidated by this assignment but willing to give it my best.

My name is Denis Geary and I am the Executive Director of the Jewish Association for Community Living (JCL), a proud beneficiary agency of the Federation. JCL assists people with developmental and intellectual disabilities to participate in community life through personal empowerment, community engagement, family relationships and quality services enhanced by Jewish traditions. We do this primarily by supporting over 40 adults in a variety of home settings in West Hartford.

In reviewing past Shabbat messages, I noticed that Howard often references the Torah. From there he takes the ancient message and weaves it into a contemporary parable or relates it in some way to the Federation's mission and 21st-century initiatives.

It should surprise no one - and relieve everyone - that I won't be attempting to mimic Howard's writing style or Google search Torah readings. Though I did recently learn this Irish guy is 1% Ashkenazi Jewish (seriously) and only 99% Irish, I promise to stick to what I know best.

As JCL's Executive Director, what I know best is that I know what you mean to JCL. I know what you mean to Pete, Jaimie, Brian, Josh, Neil, and all of the men and women we support. And because I know what you mean to JCL, I have a really good idea of what you mean to Jewish Family Services, Hebrew Senior Care, Jewish Historical Society, Jewish Community Foundation, Mandell Jewish Community Center and our schools, Hillels and synagogues. I know because when I associate with any of these wonderful organizations, educational and religious institutions, I see you and the impact you have when you support the Federation.

Tonight at one our group homes, candles will be lit for Shabbat. Around the time you read this, JCL will be opening our fourth group home. Several times a year Nancy Rosen leads folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities in specially designed Shabbat services at Beth El Temple. (All are welcome to join us.) Teens from JTConnect interact with JCL often. You make this happen for Lauren, David, Mira, Beena and others. And if you do this for us, you are doing it for many more. If you support Federation, you support all of us.

Twenty-five years ago, I came to this community green - very green. If I felt a little out of my element, it was only because I lacked the ability to foresee just how blessed JCL would be in the years ahead. You make JCL and our clients feel welcome. You make all of Federation's beneficiary agencies feel valued. Thank you for taking the time to get to know us.

Shabbat Shalom.


Denis Geary
Executive Director
Jewish Association for Community Living

Photo caption: Students and staff from JTConnect enjoy pizza with JCL group home residents.


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