Mark and I choose to participate in the Jewish community, through our actions and donations, as a reflection of our commitment to our Jewish community, as well as an acknowledgment of how that community has enriched our lives.
There has never been a day we have not felt supported by our Jewish organizations. Volunteering is a way to say thank you, as well as to ensure that the next generations will carry on our traditions, and connect to the Binghamton community and heritage as we always have.
To me a Jewish community is like a tepee. As you know a tepee has wooden poles covered by a buffalo hide. In a community the poles represent the various organizations – synagogues, schools, sisterhoods, clubs, JCCs, you name it. The hide is the Federation. To be an intact and vibrant community the poles have to be strong to hold up the structure and the hide has to be maintained to serve the functions of holding the stakes together and provide shelter for the inhabitants.
When I came to Binghamton with my young family I encountered an intact tepee. My kids went to the JCC kindergarten and pre-school, then excelled in Hillel Academy, and played various sports with other Jewish kids. My family became members of a synagogue and in this way we prospered. We benefited from the work and the generosity of those who arrived and contributed in Binghamton before us. Then, as we settled in and our children grew up it was our turn to help maintaining the Binghamton Jewish tepee. My late wife and I became active in Hillel Academy as board members.
I also served as president of my synagogue and of the Federation. Our financial contributions grew once braces and private elementary school tuition were out of the way and our children had graduated from college. I also became aware how much I benefited from the fact that all organizations were supported by the Federation even though I didn't directly benefit from some. But others did and some of these families were my friends. In other words, thanks to the Federation I have a large, wonderful circle of Jewish friends! Not bad, eh?
The Binghamton Jewish community has everything my husband and I were looking for when we moved to this area as newlyweds. Meeting and marrying in Atlanta, GA, was great, but we soon realized that a suburban temple and a handful of Jewish peers wasn't enough for us. Returning to my husband's hometown offered us a multi-generational community of role models, friends, support and familiarity that we hadn’t found elsewhere.
I see the Federation as the glue that connects all of our beloved Jewish institutions together. I loved getting to know members of our community at the Jewish Community Center’s Casino Night, working out at its fitness center, cooking in the JCC kitchen for holidays or the Ethnic Festivals, catering a Federation Annual Dinner, joining Temple Concord Sisterhood, teaching TC religious school and volunteering at the Early Childhood Center. We quickly developed a large group of friends who hailed from different temples, but came together as a community through many Federation-supported events and programs. I often say I learned to be Jewish at the JCC. Having converted in Atlanta, I came here and learned to "cook Jewish" from Greta Herz and Riva Ginsberg. Their guidance and expertise taught me so much, and also encouraged me to give back by teaching vegetarian cooking classes at the "J."
The Federation supports all of us at every stage of our life. We raised our boys at the JCC thanks to the Early Childhood Center, the physical fitness department, the aquatics center, the Ganeinu pre-school class, Camp JCC and Kids Connection. We, in turn, support our Jewish culture and community as best we can. I know everyone does what they can do, and for our family that was, and continues to be, a combination of legal help, volunteer efforts, leadership positions and financial support. It feels good to work alongside people who support our Jewish community. HINENI, as well as TIKKUN OLAM, have been key components of our Jewish life here. I will always appreciate the sense of belonging that our family has enjoyed in Binghamton, and much of that is due to the cohesiveness provided by the Jewish Federation.
When I came to the area in 1985 I lived in Sidney, NY. My first connection to our Jewish community was as a volunteer for the Reporter putting mailing labels on the paper. Then I joined Temple Israel. The friends that I made over the ensuing years have become my local family.
I support the Jewish Federation because our religion teaches us to help those less fortunate than us. Our tradition has survived through the centuries by community involvement. We support a Hebrew Day School which is quite an achievement for such a small community. We support several synagogue denominations. Most importantly we support a social welfare agency, Jewish Family Services, which helps many through emergency periods.
My wife, Betty, and I have raised our daughter, Shelley, in this community. It still amazes me how much concern those we have met here show for Shelley and her future.
I have served as president of the Federation and Temple Israel. A small community benefits from camaraderie. All contributions make a difference, none are too small. Every donation helps make a difference in the lives of our neighbors. What could be more rewarding?