When Phyllis and I retired to Buffalo, as so many people do, we thought we would lead a leisurely existence of going to the Buffalo Philharmonic, visiting art galleries, and shoveling snow. And then reality intruded. Phyllis had already been involved in Hadassah for years, helping to make the local Hadassah chapter one of the most active among smaller communities in the country, but then we joined Kehillat Ohr Tzion, a small Modern Orthodox synagogue, where we soon discovered that we were in charge of recycling and the Social Action Committee, among other obligations.
And then we got the notice of a meeting that would look into reorganizing and restarting the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Because Phyllis had a Hadassah event that evening, I attended the meeting, which, honestly, was so inspiring that I volunteered to draft a vision statement. That gesture, as such gestures often do, led to further involvement and to my eventually becoming co-chair of the JCRC. Serving in that office has been a tremendous pleasure, a partial fulfillment of what I consider to be the essence of Judaism.
The JCRC is devoted to the furtherance of social justice, both inside and outside of the Jewish community. It seeks to follow the Jewish ideal as expressed in the first chapter of the prophet Isaiah: “Limdu heitev—Learn to do good: Devote yourself to justice; aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; defend the cause of the widow.” In short, do what is right, and focus on the rights of the weak and the oppressed.
The JCRC attempts to uphold this ideal by creating alliances with other organizations devoted to social justice, alliances that benefit the Jewish community and the Buffalo community as a whole, and by taking stands on a variety of social issues.
I have been privileged to serve as co-chair with Nina Lukin, under the dedicated professional direction of Mara Koven-Gelman, but now my term is coming to an end. I am happy to be able to say, however, that my replacement is an outstanding member of the Jewish community, Deborah Goldman. I suspect that everyone in Buffalo probably knows Deborah, thanks to her active involvement in so many organizations and causes, but let me mention just a few of those.
Deborah has been involved in any number of organizations in the area of mental health, but she has also served as president of the Jewish Board of Education, as president of Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood of Western and Central New York, and in a wide variety of other capacities. The JCRC is really fortunate to have such a person as its future co-chair.
In the meantime, Phyllis and I will continue to serve on the JCRC Executive Committee, because we recognize how vital the JCRC’s work is for both Buffalo and for its Jewish community. As we can see from the continuing relevance of Isaiah’s words from more than two thousand years ago, the cause of social justice never goes out of style.
Thank you Ted, for your continued support and involvement to help ensure a robust, caring and connected 21st Century Jewish Buffalo!