Opportunities and Challenges in the New Year

Opportunities and challenges. That’s what I see as we close one Jewish year and enter another. It’s the same every year. We have to look at where we can make a positive impact while also keeping an eye on pressures that can work against us as a Jewish community and as a Jewish people.

As we begin this New Year, our Federation is working on launching an effort to take a macro view at planning for our senior population. We are looking at how we can best engage young adults. We are working with other religious and ethnic groups in our region to promote harmony and to make Pittsburgh the best it can be. We are looking at how we can best care for our region’s Jewish cemeteries. We are trying to encourage more people to participate in intensive Jewish study and engagement. We are working to fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that strives to demonize Israel. We are going to connect more people to Israel through missions, Partnership2Gether programs and opportunities like Birthright Israel, Onward Israel, teen travel to Israel and MASA (longer term trips) programs. We are working to make our community more inclusive so that those with disabilities are fully accepted and integrated into what our community offers. We are hiring our first ever Jewish Community Security Director to help and support all our Jewish institutions. We are developing strategies to raise more money for our 2017 Annual Campaign, our Jewish Community Foundation and the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. We are beginning to lay out new strategies around how to provide the best in Jewish education. We are beginning work to undertake a demographic study of our Jewish community for the first time since 2002. We are helping our PJ Library programs expand to more Jewish families. We are working to become more data driven in our decision making.

Each of these are our opportunities to combat challenges. Whether that challenge be apathy towards being Jewish, a lack of resources to “purchase” Jewish services, or the singling out of Israel among the nations of the world, we have the ability to impact them with the right strategies and the resources to invest in them. As we enter 5777, I look positively at how we address these challenges. We can and will do so, as a community.

This was a very sad week with the passing of Shimon Peres. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been in his presence many times during my career. It was a true honor to know him and to hear him speak. As I looked at all my friends’ and colleagues’ posts on Facebook, I noticed one Peres quote that immediately jumped off the screen at me:

“Optimists and pessimists die the same way. They just live differently. I prefer to live as an optimist.”

I hope you share with me that same sense of optimism that Peres had until his death.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a very happy, healthy and optimistic New Year. Shanah Tovah.

Jeff Finkelstein

President & CEO

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