Jewish Kansas City’s New Beginnings 5784

By Hava Leipzig Holzhauer, Outgoing Interim President & CEO, Jewish Federation

Maybe some of you can relate to my struggle to comprehend summer’s all-too-quick disappearance - it seems to happen every year. Just yesterday it was May, school was finishing up, the sun was high in the sky for longer, and vacation was imminent. Now the fall school year is here beginning again, and the Jewish high holidays - the year 5784 - are just around the corner. 

Over the years, I continue to notice and reflect on how these seasonal rhythms bring not only a change in the weather, but an evolution marked by life stages. For me this year, this phenomenon translates to a new stage of parenting, the “empty nest”, as my children are no longer at home. This change means my role in their lives and the day-to-day must also evolve.

Another evolution at hand affects the whole of Greater Kansas City’s Jewish community. Several major Jewish organizations - Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, Jewish Family Service, and the Jewish Community Foundation - will all begin the year under new leadership. 

While embracing new beginnings which include my departure from KC, I am moved to reflect on how fortunate I have been to have had the opportunity to experience so much of what is special about Jewish Kansas City from the inside.

My first week began with a historical tour of Jewish Kansas City. I was surprised and inspired by its depth - by the Jewish families who have been in the area for six generations, by the broad cross-section of synagogue and engaged Jewish life, and by the major, meaningful, and diverse investments made in Kansas City institutions citywide by members of today’s Jewish community and their family members before them. 

Yet, ever since that first week reflecting on the past, my time within Jewish Kansas City has been grounded in the present while maintaining a vision towards the future. Through Federation and its agency partners I was grateful to find new and long-time dedicated volunteers, benefactors, board, committee leaders and incredible staff. 

These KC committed are of all ages and stages, identify Jewishly and support the community in so many compelling ways, from heritage and culture to peoplehood to religion to homeland. They love their city, and are dedicated to its Jewish, secular, and sustainable future, and to its safety and security. This uplifting community remains steadfastly involved in diverse and innovative ways, always ready to show up, to engage, to support - even after recently overcoming the major transitions of the COVID pandemic and leadership change.

As I complete my term as Interim working with our chair, Beth Liss, and our new and esteemed CEO, Jay Lewis, I am proud to have taken part in ushering in this change. I leave confident knowing that as a passionate native and an expert Jewish professional, Jay, is uniquely ready, willing, and able to provide collaborative leadership, to work in partnership with the board, and to serve the Jewish KC community at this auspicious time. 

The wisdom, strength, and community initiative I have experienced within Jewish Kansas City will energize and ensure the success of this new era of change. The Jewish year, 5784, will bring creativity, collaboration, and growth to one of the best cities in which I have ever worked. 

The Baal Shem Tov speaks to circumstances of change, evolution, and new beginnings when he articulates, “The world is new to us every morning - and every person should believe (she/he/they) is reborn each day.” What an incredible notion to embrace and with which to help guide Jewish Kansas City through its latest evolution. 

Every day is a new opportunity to reflect, to recommit, to elevate our stake, to be more collaborative, to seek wisdom, to view the community holistically, to engage and involve others, to reach out and to make our community an even better place for the generations to come.

Shana Tovah,