This month marks the JCA’s two-year anniversary on Congress Street! Our time here has been fantastic, challenging, and exciting, and the organization has grown in so many ways.
And the past year has been particularly full.
Full of sorrow, as we experienced unprecedented violent attacks on American Jewish communities and the rise of antisemitism both here in Maine and around the world.
And full of joy. This year, we enjoyed a beautiful “Divas on the Bimah” concert in honor of Cantor Messerschmidt. KJFS brought pallet after pallet of diapers to Maine for families of recently-arrived asylum seekers. We welcomed over 80 people to a Community Interfaith Seder. We marked the 70th anniversary of Center Day Camp. We celebrated mitzvah awards with our friends each week during Shabbat in the preschool. And so much more.
We have recently distributed our Annual Report, which includes reports from each of our program areas for the past year, the reviewed financials for 2017-2018, and our 2018-2019 Honor Roll of Donors. In addition, we have printed the second annual Yearbook, a JCC tradition that we revived last year to offer as a resource to the community.
There are so many wonderful events and initiatives chronicled in these documents – far too many for me to adequately review tonight – so I encourage you to take a look at these pieces in the days to come. Our Annual Campaign theme this year is “Meaningful Moments Powered by You.” These reports demonstrate that, through the generosity of our community, each year we are deepening our capacity to help create powerful experiences in the lives of those of all ages. We are truly in the business of building community and changing lives.
In addition to the work of “meaning-making,” I want to suggest several themes that help describe both the trajectory of the JCA’s future and the ethical commitments that underlie our work.
- The JCA is Innovative – many of the things we are doing are new to us, new to Maine, or entirely new. All over the world, Judaism is in the midst of a significant transition, as levels and types of religiosity – especially among young people – are shifting. The JCA is at the forefront of helping our community respond to these changes. This involves trying new things while treasuring our tradition, and committing to Jewish Life as a big-tent endeavor, where there is room for everyone and we are open to all.
- The JCA is Effective – Our programs and offerings are designed thoughtfully, by skilled and experienced staff and volunteers. We use quantitative and qualitative measures to assess the work we do, and are always open to and actively soliciting constructive feedback and suggestions.
- The JCA is Efficient – As a blended agency incorporating a Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation, and Jewish Family Services program, we do an incredible amount on an absolute shoestring. We have learned to wrest the maximum benefit from our resources and to work toward organizational structures that allow us to do as much as we can with as little as possible.
- The JCA is Successful: Our business plan projected that we would have five years of deficits before we were able to balance a budget in this new building. Instead, last year we beat a six-figure deficit and nearly broke even, and I am so happy to report that this year, we are firmly in the black. In concert with the transformative $1.2 million dollar gift we received in the spring that will enable us to pay the mortgage on this building within two years, our recent performance demonstrates that the JCA is strong and secure, and that we are here to stay!
We meet tonight during the month of Elul – a time of great meaning, during which we consider our lives and our choices over the past year, and through reflection, endeavor to make amends and improve in the year to come. Inherent in this process is the knowledge that despite our best efforts, we will always make mistakes and experience failures and setbacks.
So as we celebrate this year’s accomplishments, I want to also embrace the spirit of Elul. Rabbi Alan Lew said, “Every soul wants to express itself. Every heart needs to crack itself open. Every one of us needs to move from anger to healing, from denial to consciousness, from boredom to renewal.” We can always learn more, give more, and listen more. Every day is an opportunity to deepen our commitments, our kindness, and our love for Jewish life and one another.
May the JCA continue to move from strength to strength, and may each of us, and our community, enjoy a sweet new year.