"Welcome and Farewell:" Thoughts From Our Executive Director Dara Kaufman

By Dara Kaufman / Executive Director, Jewish Federation of the Berkshires

It’s hard to believe another calendar year has come and (almost) gone. It has been an amazing year! Despite the hardships of the pandemic, our community stepped up in such significant ways.

Many volunteers are behind Federation’s work, including our board of directors, committee chairs and members, event hosts, and project volunteers. We had volunteers who delivered meals, holiday care packages, and the Berkshire Jewish Voice. We had volunteers who visited and celebrated Shabbat with our elders, implemented programming, and managed our mitzvah drives. We would be remiss not to mention all the volunteers who helped us raise the resources necessary to maintain the critical programs and services upon which our community depends. We would not be the Federation or the Jewish community we are today without our dedicated volunteers. Thank you all!

Behind this amazing volunteer effort is Federation’s PJ Library and Volunteer Coordinator Susan Frisch Lehrer, who recently announced that she would retire at the end of the year. Anyone who has met or worked with Susan knows that there is nobody more dedicated, caring, or enthusiastic about the Federation and our Jewish community than Susan.

Over the last 14 years, Susan supported hundreds of children and their families in their Jewish journeys through our PJ Library program. She has helped hundreds of community members put their Jewish values into action through Federation-sponsored opportunities for tikkun olam. Along the way, she has become a trusted and inspiring colleague and friend to so many of her volunteers and co-workers. 

We are so grateful for Susan’s years of service and are working on a way for our community to honor her in a pandemic-safe way. Please watch Federation’s weekly eblast for more details. 

Another way our community stepped up this year is by investing their support in Federation’s 2021 annual campaign. As of the end of October, we have raised over $915,000 and are closing in our goal of $1 million to continue the vital programs and services that lift our entire community.

In the spring of 2021, just as we were ready to launch our campaign, our development officer had to step away on family leave. Thankfully, we found Janet Lee, who stepped into this position temporarily to help us through the campaign. With her excellent organizational skills and deep connection to our Jewish community, Janet has stewarded our campaign, together with our board, development committee, and staff, to a very successful outcome. As this was a temporary position, Janet will also be leaving us at the end of the year, but we wish her well. I know that her passion for and commitment to Jewish life will continue to impact our Berkshire community. 

While we say farewell to some staff, we also say welcome to a new member of the Federation family.  This past October, we welcomed Rabbi Daveen Litwin as our new Director of Community Engagement and Programming.  This new full-time position builds upon the Federation’s existing programming and community-building efforts while expanding the Federation’s capacity to tackle important priorities for outreach and engagement, as identified in our recent strategic plan. Daveen has started in a part-time remote capacity and will transition to a full-time Berkshirite in early 2022.  

You can read more about Rabbi Litwin in the announcement on page ##. I know she is looking forward to learning more about our Jewish community while engaging with staff, board members, donors and program participants over the next year as she begins her journey in this new role.

We are excited by the opportunities revealed through our recent strategic planning process and are anxious to work with all of you, our friends and supporters, to create a strong and bright future for our Berkshire Jewish community.

As we approach the end of our 2021 campaign, your support is more necessary than ever before. If you have already made a gift, thank you! Your caring support will help create comfort, care, and Jewish connection for people of all ages across our community. If you have not yet made a gift, there is still time to do so!

Thank you!

Dara Kaufman is the executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires.