Super Tzedakah Week 2024: In Every Generation, Federation

Jewish Federation of the Berkshires kicks off its 2024 Community Campaign on Super Tzedakah Week, starting May 19. Join us in building a safer and stronger Jewish community through your investment and participation in our work.

As part of the campaign kickoff, the Federation hosts Jewish Community Day on May 19 at High Lawn Farm in Lee from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Last year, more than 400 people attended – can we top that in 2024? See the article below with all the details of this exciting afternoon! 

This year, we will help alleviate the growing food crisis in the Berkshires with our Pasta and Rice Collection from May 1 to May 31. Drop off packaged pasta and rice for distribution to local food pantries at: The Berkshire Food Co-op, Great Barrington; Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, Great Barrington; Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, Pittsfield; and Congregation Beth Israel, North Adams.


With antisemitism on the rise in the Berkshires and Israel under attack, it is more important than ever to bolster our community with pride, courage, and Jewish joy. Today, more than ever, our community relies on Federation’s leadership and support to navigate these uncertain times and ensure a secure and vibrant Jewish future for the Berkshires.

Federation’s 2024 campaign goal is $1.2 million. Through your gift to the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires:

  • YOU combat antisemitism through advocacy and response, victim support, awareness campaigns, and anti-bias education for local students and faculty to help them address and respond to antisemitic events and bias in their schools.
  • YOU empower Jewish identity for young people through PJ Library books, family programming, Jewish education grants, volunteer opportunities, and Jewish camp and Israel scholarships.
  • YOU bring hope and dignity to the elderly with warm meals, holiday care packages, companionship, and the support of our community social worker.  
  • YOU Create a safer community through community security grants, training, and engagement with local and regional law enforcement
  • YOU care for the fragile and vulnerable by providing much-needed food, medicine, medical care, and social services.
  • YOU unite community in Jewish learning and celebration through educational, holiday, and cultural programs.
  • YOU strengthen our relationship with Israel through our partnership with the Afula-Gilboa region.
  • And in this time of crises in Israel and Ukraine, YOU save lives through Federation’s immediate SOS response, including emergency fundraising and ongoing Israel education and advocacy.

The terror attacks on October 7 showed us that our world can change quickly. In moments like these, we realize how critical it is to have a strong Jewish community with infrastructure in place to provide leadership and emergency support. Because of donors like you, Federation was ready and able to respond immediately, mobilizing the Israel Crisis Fund, educating and engaging the broader community, and responding to rising antisemitism in the Berkshires.

“If we have learned anything in this moment, it is that American Jews must live in a safe, secure, engaged, educated, compassionate, and supported Jewish community,” said Arlene D. Schiff, Federation’s president. “We must be able to support the most fragile. We must have strong relations with elected officials and interfaith partners. We must educate and support our young people. We must stand up for our right to be safe and free from persecution. We must be visible and proud. Your support of Jewish Federation of the Berkshires ensures all this and so much more!”

Everything we do in the Berkshire Jewish community and beyond is fueled by the generosity and commitment of people like you. Please see the flyer inside this issue of the Berkshire Jewish Voice for more information on ways to contribute.

In Every Generation, Federation - Super Tzedakah Week Chair Josh Cutler

Josh Cutler asserts that the way “Federation transcends generations” is the most important message about our work that he will share with the congregations he’ll be visiting this May as Super Tzedakah Week chair. So perhaps a good way to introduce him is with an overview of his own generational connection to the Berkshires and its Jewish community.

Josh is a member of the fourth of five generations of his family to live in the Berkshires – his 4-year-old son, James, is in the fifth. His direct forebears first arrived in 1903 to join siblings who had already settled here, living in “the old Jewish neighborhood” around Linden Street just west of downtown Pittsfield. Family businesses included a coal company, a junk yard, a neighborhood grocery, and a dentist’s office, where Cutler’s father, Alan, practiced for 31 years. His extended family included cousins Ed Skoletsky and Bob Schindler (of blessed memory), the mention of whom can still evoke a warm smile from those lucky enough to have known them. Josh counts Rabbi Harold Salzmann of Temple Anshe Amunim as his mentor, who from the time he was a teenager guided him in community affairs and the traditions of Reform Judaism. He first contributed to Federation’s annual campaign after the late Howard Kaufman, esteemed founder of KB Toys and long one of the Berkshires’ most ardent philanthropists, reached out to him personally; Cutler remembers that he “made the donation in honor of the man who called me.”

Josh’s connections to these stalwarts of earlier generations – and his appreciation of the “personal touch” they demonstrated in connecting with him – impel his involvement as a leader in the Jewish community today. The 35-year-old Pittsfield-native stays steadfastly connected to his local roots and now works in the Finance Department at General Dynamics. He serves on Federation’s board of directors and Allocations Committee, and sustains his lifelong involvement with the synagogue his grandparents joined in 1957, Temple Anshe Amunim (TAA), where he served from 2018 to 2020 as the youngest president in the congregation’s 155-year history. The Cutler family’s service to the Jewish community is lengthy – Josh’s grandfather, Maurice Cutler (of blessed memory), served as the TAA’s treasurer for 13 years, and was instrumental in allocation of the funding for the construction in 1964 of the congregation’s current home on Broad Street in Pittsfield.

Josh remembers that Federation first impacted his life as a very small child, when he joined Sue Schulman’s playgroup at TAA, a Hebrew school program then as now supported by annual campaign dollars. He never went to Jewish summer camp and so did not avail himself of the Federation scholarship that would have been available to him. Mostly, he remembers, he interacted with Federation’s work as part of TAA’s lay leadership and came to understand its central role supporting the spectrum of Jewish life in the region. So when Michael Wasserman, a fellow Temple leader and lifelong friend, “asked me to contribute to this community by serving on Federation’s board, of course I said I’d do it,” he says.

Now he sees his son James benefit from the ways that Federation nurtures Jewish youth, both with the support to religious school that it has long provided and with the more robust array of family and community events introduced in the past several years. “I knew I wanted him involved in Jewish life early on,” says Josh, who says that the pandemic-era Zoom services from allowed him to expose his son to Jewish practice as an infant, earlier than he might have been able to in person. In the years since, the two have been regular attendees at Federation-sponsored PJ Library outings such as last year’s Family Tanglewood Shabbat, where they have not only connected with other Jewish families from around the Berkshires, but at which Josh was able to bring James inside The Shed for the first time and “take him right up front for the BSO rehearsal” – certainly a l’dor vador rite of passage for any Berkshire father and son.

Josh says his involvement in Federation’s leadership opened his eyes to breadth of the organization’s impact. “Until I delved into the budget as a member of the Allocations Committee,” he says, “I really had no idea of how much we did. I was able to see how far we make the dollars raised go to keep our local and wider Jewish community alive and well. Federation is not only focused on the here and now, but looks toward our future, as well.”

And this is how our small Federation – which provides essential services and programs that in larger communities are divided among numerous Jewish organizations – works to transcend generations, “supporting people of all ages and all walks of life,” says Josh. “In my personal experience, I’ve seen Federation develop a stronger commitment to Jewish education, continuing its support of congregational schools while also developing more diverse offerings for families that meet people where they are at in their Jewish journeys. We’ve always had overnight camp scholarships, but now we partner with Camp Eisner so that younger kids can afford Jewish day camp. Not only that, Federation stays involved with our youth even longer, through subsidies for Israel experiences for young people from their teens into their twenties.”

Affordable kosher lunches and holiday meals have long been a part of how Federation has served older adults in the community, and Josh says he is also impressed with the way Federation has upped its Connecting With Community and cultural programming. He points to a byproduct of the pandemic experience that Federation has run with – offering stimulating and informative online programs year-round with nationally-prominent thought-leaders that connect our small community with arts and ideas from the wider Jewish world.

Josh remembers that he took the reins as TAA’s president four months before the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue – a challenging time as congregations across the country scrambled to tighten security. Federation, he says, “played a large role in those efforts to ensure the safety of this Jewish community. It established relationships with community partners across the Berkshires, sharing our concerns with police departments and ensuring our security needs are met. Federation coordinated with resources like the Secure Community Network to boost the security systems that further help to protect our communal buildings and gatherings.”

Critically, adds Josh, “Federation helped build relationships and an awareness, both within the Jewish community and throughout the country, of the necessity of looking out after one another to make sure we are unified and protected.”

And when the worst did occur on Oct. 7, Josh says “it was moving for me to be able to take my son to the pro-Israel vigil in Park Square, where 500-plus Jews and our allies came together with flags and banners supporting Israel. It is essential that we respond in ways like that so that our younger generation can see us coming together and understand the importance of community.”

As someone with long ties to the area, Josh also appreciates that Federation honors the past. “The Ahavath Sholem Cemetery in Pittsfield belonged to a congregation that has not been around for many generations,” he says. “But Federation each year allocates a meaningful amount of money for its upkeep, honoring the memories those who helped build this community.”

Josh says that is particularly important to him, as he believes himself to be a keeper of that history. He cites with gratitude the mentors and friends who guided him – special kavod to Andy Hochberg, Howard Shapiro, Lanny Zuckerman, Deb Cole-Duffy, Rabbi Barbara Cohen, Rabbi Dennis Ross (“who taught me how to be confident in public forums”), Rhoda and Phil Kaminstein, and Ellen and Stuart Masters.

“They gave me all the stories and knowledge of our Jewish community from a time before I was born,” Josh says. “Even those people who have passed – I can tell their stories.”

Be there when our Super Tzedakah Week chair, Josh Cutler, shares his Federation story with your congregation this May.

Friday, May 3 at 6 p.m. at Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, 270 State Road, Great Barrington

Friday, May 10 at 5:30 p.m. at Temple Anshe Amunim, 26 Broad Street, Pittsfield

Saturday, May 11 at 10 a.m. at the Berkshires Minyan, St James Place, 352 Main Street, Great Barrington

Saturday, May 18 at 10 a.m. at Knesset Israel, 16 Colt Rd, Pittsfield