Ken Y’hi Ratzon - Let It Be So

Federation’s outgoing president reflects on the ways we lifted each other up and made our community more inclusive

By Elisa Schindler Frankel

This column was adapted from Elisa’s remarks as outgoing president of Jewish Federation of the Berkshires at our 83rd Annual Meeting on June 20.

I have always been deeply connected to Judaism, both through my involvement in synagogue life and my relationship with Israel. However, it wasn't until I moved to the Berkshires that I truly understood the importance of Jewish Federations. I quickly came to realize how essential our Federation was in improving lives and strengthening Jewish community across the Berkshires, in Israel, and around the world, now and for future generations. It was the beating heart that kept us all going. 

I am so proud of all that we have accomplished together over the past two years. When I took over as president, we were facing several challenges. We were in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic outlook was uncertain. But I knew that with your support, we could overcome these adversities.

And that is exactly what we did. Together we:

Surpassed our annual fundraising goal for two years in a row, breaking the $1 million mark and increasing the campaign by 24%, accomplished with the tremendous support of our newly-formed Development Committee.

  • Launched a new, innovative, and compelling way to kick off our annual campaign at High Lawn Farm, with an expanded Super Tzedakah Week. This was an overwhelming success, resulting in over 400 attendees this past May and almost as many people the year before.
  • Welcomed a large influx of new residents to the Berkshires and helped them find meaningful Jewish connections in our community.
  • Reimagined religious education in our synagogues and increased our support to them by 20%.
  • Raised over $100,000 to help care for Ukrainian Jews in crisis, plus $20,000 more in emergency winter relief.
  • Expanded our programs and services to better serve the needs of our community.

In addition to the accomplishments, I am also proud of the way we have worked to make our community more inclusive. We have increased diversity on our board and staff and intentionally developed programming that reflects a wider span of Jewish racial, cultural, sexual, and social identity. 

But perhaps our most important accomplishment was the way we came together as a community during a time of crisis. We supported each other, we lifted each other up, and we never gave up hope. I am so proud of all that we have accomplished together. I know we can do even more and that’s why I am asking for your continued support as we work to build a stronger, more vibrant Jewish Federation.

This is a very bittersweet moment for me as I complete my term as president. I love Federation with all my heart and always will. I believe that a strong and vibrant Jewish community is one that is inclusive and welcoming to all and is essential to future of the Jewish people.

I am committed to continuing to create a community that celebrates the diversity of our experiences, and I would be honored if you would join us on this journey.

Together, we can make a difference. Thank you. Ken y’hi ratzon