Friday, January 4, 2019
Walk Around Like You Own the Place
Friday, December 7, 2018
Light Your Candle for the Future of the Akron Jewish Community
As I reflect on my first week in the JCBA office, I would like to share my appreciation with all of you for entrusting me with the stewardship of this organization and our Akron Jewish community. I consider this work – the work of Jewish communal organizations – to be truly holy work, and I look forward to continuing to build on the strong foundations that you've created in Akron.
Since we are in the middle of Chanukah, and while I have your attention, I thought I would also share a few words about my perspective on the Festival of Lights and the work of the JCBA. While there are certainly more sagely Jewish interpretations of Chanukah and its subsequent rituals, I find inspiration for the Festival in a uniquely "American" moment in our history.
In 1960, then Presidential candidate, John F. Kennedy accepted the Democratic party's nomination at the National Convention in Los Angeles. In his speech, Kennedy said, "We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through the darkness to a safe and sure future. For the world is changing, the old era is ending. The old ways will not do."
I’m often reminded of this passage during Chanukah, and I've come to find parallels between Kennedy's words and the determination and persistence of the Jewish people. Throughout Jewish history, we need not look very far to find terrific examples of those who have not been satisfied with simply cursing the darkness and those who have worked for a brighter future for the Jewish people.
Hadassah hospital founder Henrietta Sczold immigrated to Palestine in 1933 and helped run Youth Aliyah, which rescued 30,000 Jewish children from Nazi Europe. Holocaust survivor, poet and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel told the story of the Holocaust and kept the story alive so we will never forget the horrors that were perpetuated upon our people. Natan Sharansky's strength and opposition to Russian brutality inspired Jews around the world to ensure the rescue of Soviet Jewry. These are merely three who represent the countless other examples of our people who have brought light to the world. But as great as they were in their actions, we must remember that they did not "light candles" alone. They had the support, advocacy and participation of the global Jewish community to keep their light radiating into the darkness.
Jewish Federations, like the Jewish Community Board of Akron, exist to ensure the successful survival of the Jewish people. The work that we do, as professionals and lay leaders, is done in the spirit of President Kennedy's speech and while standing on the shoulders of those Jewish heroes who have paved the way for the global Jewish community that we see today. We are responsible for the future of our community and for the sacred task of carrying the flame which ensures that no one need continue to live in darkness. Like those heroes of the Jewish people previously mentioned, we also cannot do it alone and need the support, both financial and human capital, of our community.
To that end, should you happen to know of anyone whom may be interested in holding a candle in support of our efforts to grow and strengthen the Akron Jewish community, please send them my way as I have several boxes of candles in my office waiting to be lit.
Thank you for all that you do and will continue to do for our local and global Jewish Community. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah!
Todd Polikoff, JCBA CEO