Lately I have been thinking a lot of my paternal grandfather, Barney Meltzer. Known for his integrity and his kind demeanor, Grandpa Barney was a loving family man and confidant. He practiced law in Syracuse for 50 years. It was not uncommon for clients and community members to call him at all hours seeking advice. In particular, I am often thinking of the time he told me to never ask someone for whom they voted. I must have been about 12 years old, and I am not sure what prompted the comment, but it has stayed with me over the years. I wonder what he would think of this day of social media and instant sharing. Have we lost the depth of our commitment? Was voting more personal to his generation? Were immigrants, particularly those that fled persecution, more fearful about sharing their values?
In time, I have taken his advice to heart and have shaped it into my own set of values; everyone has the right to their opinion and privacy. This is not to say we shouldn’t speak up for what is just, but rather to judge people on their character: Is this person good to their word? Are they kind? Do they lift up those around them? These are the character traits that I value in myself and seek in others. These are the principles I have done my best to bring to the Federation during my first year on the job.
As we enter what will be our sixth month of isolation because of COVID-19, I am using these values more and more every day. Is the Federation good to its word? Are we holding up community members and our organizations to the best of our abilities and, most importantly, are we kind? Right now, I am struggling with how best to serve the community from isolation. I never want the Federation to just be the organization that asks for money. Our goal is to unite the local Jewish community in our shared faith. How do we effectively accomplish this when we can’t be together in person?
While I grapple with how best to serve, I want to say to members of this community, “If you have a need, please reach out. We are here.” I am thinking of all of you community members with whom I have had the pleasure to work over this last year. Let us all continue to be true to our word, kind to one another and uplift those around us. These are the things that make us Jews. These are things that make Binghamton a special community.