One of the most common questions I used to get was, “So… Jason… what exactly does the Jewish Federation do?” What most people knew was that we were the organization that asked for money. However, people were not always sure how the money they donated benefited the community. Or even more specifically, what the purpose of the Jewish Federation was, besides the idea of ensuring Jewish continuity into the future. So, over the past 13 years, I have worked very hard to show the impact the Jewish Federation has on our community.
Following the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, besides coordinating the community prayer service, I wanted to make sure that our community partners, the synagogues and schools in our community, were doing what they could in regards to security at their respective institutions. Knowing that by bringing everyone together to discuss and share ideas regarding security, our community would be safer. There is something to be said about maximizing resources and the shared learning that can happen by being together. I reached out to each organization, as well as to both the ADL and local law enforcement, and the response was amazing…. They were all interested in coming together.
On Monday, December 3, every one of our Jewish institutions sent representatives to the security gathering. There were a total of 37 people in attendance as Monrovia Police Officer Ruano provided an Active Shooter training, based on the training law enforcement go through from the FBI. We then heard from every organization as they shared some of what they have done to make their organizations safer and what plans they have moving forward. Attendees were able to hear what each other are doing and ways they could incorporate some of the new security measures that they can take back to their respective organization and discuss with others.
Opportunities such as this gathering, can only happen with the Jewish Federation’s help because we are able to bring everyone together. We truly see one of our roles as a convener. Plus, because we are concerned about what happens in and around our entire community, I want to make sure that our community and our organizations are as safe as they can be for everyone.
In this same spirit, I wanted to also let you know that we have been watching and supporting the Jewish students and faculty on our local college campuses, and more specifically Pitzer College, as of late. You may have heard of the college faculty’s recommendation to suspend the study abroad program with Haifa University. We reached out to the Pitzer College’s President, Melvin Oliver, on behalf of our local Jewish community, to express our concerns and then thanked him after he made his powerful statement against the faculty’s recommendation. Over the past few years, we have watched as the climate around the college campus has become very difficult for Jewish students and faculty. Jewish students and faculty have expressed that they have been unfairly targeted by the campus community and do not feel comfortable on campus because they are Jewish. We have been working closely with the Hillel at the Claremont Colleges, the ADL and the Israeli Consulate to help improve this situation. What is happening at Pitzer is sadly not uncommon, but the fact that it is happening in our community is prompting the Jewish Federation to do what we can. Look for an article in the February issue of JLife providing the community with an update on this situation.
The Jewish Federation strives each day to work toward our mission to strengthen and enhance Jewish life in our community. Thank you for helping make this possible. And I hope that this gives you a better idea of some of the things we are doing each day, behind the scenes, to support our Jewish community.
JASON MOSS is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the GREATER san gabriel and pomona valleys