Jewish Wisdom from Our Community and the Torah

June 26, 2020

I admit, I have struggled this week in writing this column. As the new Interim CEO, I have already received welcome feedback from the community, some good, supportive comments, and some critical, concerned, and challenging — all of which are welcome as I listen and learn in this new role.

I knew that by accepting this professional opportunity, I would not only be leading a community agency tasked with uniting, planning, and fundraising for our Jewish future, but also with listening, collaborating, and holding myself accountable to the highest standards of Jewish leadership possible.

Every day of every week the Federation staff and volunteers demonstrate their dedication to, and passion for, our Jewish community through such actions as:

  • Partnering with other interfaith and inter-racial groups to address racism, whether through community dialogue, security training, or legislative activism through our Community Relations Council (CRC);
  • Educating the greater San Antonio and Rio Grande Valley community on the historical significance and Jewish experience during the Holocaust through the efforts of the Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio (HMMSA);
  • Empowering Jewish families with young children to read Jewish books together, instilling a love of Jewish life from the earliest of ages with our free PJ Library SA program;
  • Securing beyond-life gifts to ensure the sustainability of Jewish San Antonio through our LIFE & LEGACY initiative;

And so much more!

But candidly, what I was not prepared for, was the suggestion that connecting our Jewish Federation mission’s work to the weekly Torah portion was not necessary.

Here’s my take: I am the professional leader of a Jewish agency tasked with leading our community toward a vibrant, active, and sustainable Jewish future in San Antonio. If I do not use the Torah as the guide in my decision-making; if I do not solicit the input of thousands of years of Jewish wisdom when faced with weighing the challenges of our community; and if I do not reach out to our local rabbis for their expertise, collaboration, and rabbinic understanding, then what or who should guide my leadership as the chief executive officer of a Jewish agency?

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, we read that, “[the people] assembled against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for the entire community are all holy, and G-d is in their midst.’” (Numbers 16:3). I too feel your assemblage (and I in no way claim to be remotely comparable to Moses or Aaron!) so please, please reach out and let me know how you would like to get involved and help move our Jewish community forward.

If the Jewish Federation does not have the specific committee or program to engage your passion, we will connect you to the Jewish agency in town that best suits your interests. This is not a job for one person, nor for a great team of professionals like we have at the Federation, nor for the broad range of Jewish communal professionals across the San Antonio community.

This is a responsibility that we all have as Jewish community members tasked with laying the groundwork for the generations who will follow. We are tasked to listen, to plan, and to ensure a strong, vibrant Jewish future in our city. Please join us on this journey.

Shabbat Shalom,