Chairman of the Board Mark First Addresses the Congregation on Kol Nidrei
Chairman of the Board Mark First addresses the congregation on Kol Nidrei
PAS President Natalie Barth
Delivers the UJA@PAS
Yom Kippur Appeal 5780
Good Yontif! Someone asked me the other day, “What does ‘Good Yontif’ mean?” So I looked it up. It’s a combination of English and Yiddish: "Good" is English, and Yontif is the Yiddish word for holiday, which is derived from the Hebrew yom tov, which literally means “good day.” So we are actually wishing each other a Good Good Day because we don’t wish each other a Happy Yom Kippur. So. let’s try that again: Good Yontif!
I actually wanted to start my holiday greetings with a joke. I thought a lot about Goldstein, Schwartz, Cohen, Sadie, and Abe, but as I began to write, I did a recap of the year gone by. As Rabbi Cosgrove noted over Rosh Hashanah, let’s just say that the headlines of the Jewish world in 5779 were not ideal: terror in Pittsburgh, shooting in Poway, this morning’s news from Germany, antisemitic cartoons in mainstream newspapers, racial slurs and swastikas painted on nearby institutions, Israel’s failed elections and continued tensions with her neighbors . . .
And that doesn’t take into account the myriad of troubling headlines from tragedies at other faith institutions and the secular world. As we continue to pledge ourselves to tefillah, teshuvah and tzedakah on this sacred day, we remember those headlines. They are very much a part of us. We cannot forget the importance of Klal Yisrael, Peoplehood – that we are responsible not just for this vibrant synagogue but also for the broader Jewish community.
Luckily, we don’t shoulder that responsibility alone. For more than 100 years, UJA-Federation has been here, supporting Jews everywhere and New Yorkers of all backgrounds. Under the current leadership of the UJA president, our own Amy Bressman, UJA provides more than $154 million in grants annually to hundreds of nonprofits, benefitting 4.5 million people every year in New York, Israel, and nearly 70 countries around the world.
UJA New York provided significant in-person and financial support to the Pittsburgh community last year. Locally, in partnership with The Paul E. Singer Foundation and the Rowan family, UJA is providing five million dollars to help two thousand area Jewish day schools, synagogues, camps, and community centers enhance their security precautions and personnel.
And while antisemitism has unfortunately been a recent focus, UJA continues to address the needs of those who are most vulnerable right here at home. In this past year, UJA:
• secured $64 million for afterschool programs that give vulnerable children access to enrichment services and a safe place to stay while their parents finish their workday
• served 9.6 million meals to keep hunger at bay
• provided free legal services to 100,000 New Yorkers to help them access benefits, stave off evictions, and protect themselves from domestic abuse
• offered social services to more than 16,000 Holocaust survivors
• and so much more
Most recently, just as after Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, UJA sent financial aid and life-saving humanitarian relief to the Bahamas to help those affected by Hurricane Dorian.
UJA is also our partner right here at PAS. Under the leadership of Francine Asher Holtzman and Carol Becker, our UJA@PAS Committee puts our Jewish values into practice. UJA@PAS promotes Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, by sponsoring projects on Mitzvah Day. They further Tzionut, Zionism, by partnering with other Upper East Side institutions to host our Israeli sh’licha, our emissary from Israel. They enrich our Kehillah, our community, by funding our Partners-in-Caring social workers, and they contribute to our Limmud, our lifelong learning, by providing provocative speakers for UJA Shabbat and other events, including one in partnership with PAS and The Jewish Week on November 7th featuring Yossi Klein Halevi and Yousef Bashir continuing the conversation begun in their books A Response to My Palestinian Neighbor and Words of My Father.
I am humble and proud to stand before you as president of our dynamic congregation. It brings me joy to encourage you to attend one more service, become a Shabbat Greeter, sign up for a lecture, a class, or a trip, or start a study circle, as we are blessed to be part of an exciting Jewish community. Over the past year, we saw 450 congregants travel to Israel together; we donated a Torah scroll for use at the egalitarian section of the Kotel; celebrated a record number of Bnei Mitzvah in our sanctuary; we sold out numerous trips and classes, engaged with thought-leaders, revitalized our physical space, and so much more.
Kol yisrael areivim zeh ba-zeh. We are responsible for our fellow Jews and humanity, and this sacred work does not happen without the support of all of us. While I hope that we all continue to support our synagogue, I ask that you also please join my family in donating to UJA’s Annual Appeal. To those who have already donated, todah rabbah, thank you very much! To those who have yet to show your support this year, you can do so by going online after the holiday. Yes, we are going paperless! An email reminder will follow this week.
I look forward to rededicating ourselves to our Jewish values together this fall. I pray that we are all inscribed for a happy, healthy, and sweet new year full of Goldstein jokes, happier headlines, and engaged Jewish life. Thank you and gmar hatimah tovah.