Today is December 16, 2019 -

We are special

Our community embraces Jewish pluralism. As a Jewish professional, I can tell you that our reality is quite special and, unfortunately, somewhat unique in the Jewish world. Locally, we often talk about our uniqueness, and I have written about it a few times over the years. However, this week I received some corroboration from a few outside sources. 

Our “small” community has produced a disproportionate number of rabbis and Jewish educators encompassing our denominational spectrum. Keeping in touch with many of them, I hear about how they try to bring the values they learned in our community to their new communities. 

I started my week at a Harold Grinspoon Foundation conference. I met the president of an Orthodox synagogue in the south whose rabbi grew up in our community. “He is wonderful,” she said. “His outreach to all has brought our whole Jewish community together.” 

I made it home from the conference in time to comfort a childhood friend in town to bury his grandmother. He is a rabbi serving a Conservative synagogue on the west coast. Meeting me for the first time, his wife introduced herself in a way that was almost apologetic for her religious background. I completely discarded her insecurity, to which the rabbi responded, “Rob wouldn’t care about that. He’s from Albany.” He has not lived in our community for 25 years, but he still speaks about how special we are.

Last night we honored several alumni of the Hebrew Academy at the school’s annual dinner. I was speaking with one of the honorees who today serves as an Orthodox rabbi in Queens. He was remembering the close-knit community of his youth and lamenting about how it just could not work the same way in Queens. 

This week, our community Yom Yerushalayim celebration was hosted by Temple Israel and sponsored by all of the Albany synagogues. Before that, our community Yom Hazikaron commemoration was hosted by Beth Abraham-Jacob and sponsored by most of the synagogues. In Saratoga, all groups participate in the summer festival. Glens Falls synagogues co-sponsored a picnic last summer. Schenectady rabbis join for learning. Everything that Federation does is, of course, for everyone. 

I hope that we can continue to be a light unto the Jewish communities of the world.  

Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York

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