Year 2021 has ended, and we are entering 2022. For many of us 2021 was not a pleasant year: Covid is still with us, anti-Semitism has not abated and the political discourse in our country continues to foster fear and deepen divisions. At such times it is good to remember the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
CUJF will not put an end to Covid. But CUJF will continue to help those in need in our community.
CUJF will not put an end to anti-Semitism. But CUJF will continue to help our members respond to anti-Semitic incidents and educate the non-Jewish community about who we truly are.
CUJF will not heal the political divides in our country, and the fear of the future. But CUJF will work to heal divides within our community and build bridges to other communities in town.
These three priorities will guide us in the coming year. We shall continue to help those in need and continue to reach to those who suffer from isolation. We shall continue to expand the mission of our Holocaust Education Center to deal not only with education about the Shoah in schools, but also educate about contemporary anti-Semitism. Finally, we shall work to counter the forces that split us apart.
A search in Amazon finds three books about the increasing divisions within the Jewish community, with titles such as “We Stand Divided”, or “Divided We Stand”. We are divided by our views about Israel, by our views about religion, and by our views about American politics. But these disagreements should not lead us to forget the great principle of: “Kol Israel Arevim Zeh ba-zeh:” We share a common destiny and are responsible to care for one another; we are all part of Klal Israel.
CUJF is an organization that is open to all Jews in our community, not matter whether they define their Judaism as a religion, ethnicity, culture, or tradition. CUJF has strong ties to all the other Jewish organizations in town, be it Sinai or Chabad, Hillel or the UIUC program in Jewish Culture & Society: All these organizations have representation at our Board meetings. Thus, CUJF has a natural role in maintaining the cohesion of the Jewish community in town.
I would like to do more to bring us all together in the coming year. There are at least three areas where we can deepen our collaborations.
Joint Events: The Jewish float at the last Parade of Light is a great example of such a collaboration. When CUJF was solicited to have a float, we joined forces with Hillel, Sinai and Chabad; the event would not have happened without their involvement. We shall do more such events in the coming year.
Joint Campaigns: CUJF is funding activities at Hillel, Sinai and Chabad. Our main concern is about Jewish life in C-U and all Jewish organizations in town are part of it. Fund raising should be coordinated, rather than competing.
Leadership Development: We need to prepare members of our young generation to become future leaders of the Jewish community here, or wherever life takes them. This includes participation in Jewish summer camps, trips to Israel, leadership workshops, etc. We are already collaborating with Sinai on subsidizing participation in Jewish summer camps, and CUJEF subsidizes trips to Israel. We shall work together to increase the funding for such activities and to coordinate support for leadership Development.
2022 will be my last year as President of CUJF; Tania Ionin will replace me in July. I hope to leave when I step down a stronger organization and I am convinced that I shall leave it in good hands. But CUJF can only do what it does because of the generosity of members who donate money and, even more importantly, donate time as volunteers. We can do more and shall do more with more money and more volunteers. Please help.