In Pirkei Avot 2:21, Rabbi Tarfon says “Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor, v’lo atah ben chorin l’hivatel mimena…You are not expected to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
This text has been running through my head from the moment I stepped into this role six weeks ago.
When I was entrusted with the role of President and CEO, I inherited the incredible 90-year legacy of this organization. For nine decades, Jewish Federation has led the charge and responded to every challenge that has come up. Now, thanks to the work of my predecessors, all of the lay and professional leaders that have come before me, and our rich history of incredibly generous donors, we have a thriving Jewish community that is a phenomenal place to live and to raise a Jewish family.
More than ever before, our young people are flocking back to town and more and more new people are moving here. Add in three Super Bowls and two World Series in the last nine years and we are truly living at the zenith of Jewish life in Kansas City and Kansas City overall.
And yet, the task is not complete.
In 2023, we face rising anti-Semitism and threats to the Jewish community that have forced us to invest millions of dollars in response to keep our institutions and our people safe. Our community emerged from the pandemic forever changed, thirsting for more opportunities to reconnect and gather in person while also having a new appreciation for the potential of virtual community online.
Our 2021 Community Study put a glaring light on the fact that too many Jews in Kansas City don’t feel that the Jewish community’s institutions and programs are relevant to their needs. Local Jewish agencies continue to have hundreds of thousands of dollars of unmet requests despite Jewish Federation raising more money than ever before. The needs of our partnership communities in Romania, Bulgaria, and Israel, as well as other Jewish communities around the world, also continue to grow.
We will not shy away from our responsibility to respond. Over the past 90 years, Jewish Federation has been up to every challenge and this time will not be different. As we have done every step of the way, Jewish Federation will be diligent, nimble, and creative to ensure that the Kansas City Jewish community continues to be the best Jewish community in the country.
I don’t have all the answers, but the one thing I do know is that it is going to take all of us to be successful. Current and past leaders, donors, professionals, volunteers … the job is too big to be done by one person or one group of people. It is going to take every one of us stepping forward and saying “Hineini…here I am,” and being a part of the next 90 years of the Kansas City Jewish community.
I look forward to learning, listening, and working with each and every one of you because while it is not our responsibility to finish the job, we are not free to desist from it.
I feel so lucky that Jewish Federation's Board chose me for this incredibly special role in this community, my community. I grew up here. I met my wife here. We raised two children here. My formative career opportunities have happened here and my professional mentors are from here. Every single agency and synagogue in this community has impacted my life and the life of someone in my family.
I pinch myself every day that my full-time job is to work diligently to make the Kansas City Jewish community and the city of Kansas City a better place. It just doesn’t get better than that.