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A Letter from the President


Steve Getz

Living Our Values

In July at my initial meeting with the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County CEO David Weisberg, he commented that when considering which congregation to contact within the Federation community to lead a recycling demonstration project at the Federation’s Food Festival he immediately thought of CHJ because, as he explained, “CHJ is known for its strong commitment to social action.”

This view of CHJ resonated with me and became reinforced all the more when our community received significant recognition by the Federation in its Kaleidoscope magazine for its leadership role in what proved to be a highly successful recycling program and model for future Federation Food Festivals. 

This led to CHJ’s decision to use its allocated space in the fall issue of Kaleidoscope to feature our commitment to social action.

Social action has wisely been a part of the CHJ bar and bat mitzvah experience.  Recently, as I listened to Zoey Greenbaum describe her community service project during her recent bat mitzvah ceremony I was struck by the apparent impact that the project had on her. She noted her intent to continue to be engaged in social action as the experience in part, helped to further define for her the meaning of Humanistic Judaism, her CHJ community, and the person she wants to be.

I listened to CHJ vice president David Shufrin’s Rosh Hashanah presentation wherein he noted that despite the many distractions associated with managing a career and raising a young family, his commitment to investing even a small amount of time on a regular basis to social action can and does make a difference.

The next day, I listened to the panel during the Rosh Hashanah day program titled “From Reaction to Action” where CHJ members Gene Cederbaum, Mitch Tilkin, Gail Ostrow and Rachel Dreyfus, along with panel leader David Shufrin, all spoke with pride and passion about the different causes and organizations to which they have committed their time.  And, during open discussion I heard some of the CHJ members in the audience describe the causes that they too, actively support.

And, most recently, I joined with so many of you who congratulated Steve Ulman in being selected by CHJ to be this year’s recipient of the Federation’s Mitzvah Hero Award representing CHJ. The collective pride reflected in the many online words of congratulations and affirmation of CHJ’s selection was palpable, binding us even closer as a community and demonstrating the currency that social action holds within CHJ.

It is no wonder then, that as a result of personally witnessing the described array of random social action-connected events all within a brief snap-shot of time, I was duly impressed and my welcoming remarks for the Yom Kippur service would be influenced accordingly.

But my thoughts about CHJ’s social action were not limited to action external to CHJ alone.  I witness members of our community also giving to CHJ by volunteering time to work on programming, bar and bat mitzvah mentoring, planning and executing the High Holiday programs, serving on CHJ’s committees, Board, and more.

As I considered the meaning of self-reflection and personal improvement I was drawn to the notion that one of the most potent means of self-improvement, increased self-esteem, and purpose is to move beyond oneself and act in accordance with the Jewish values of loving-kindness (Gemilut Chassadim), charity (Tzedakah) and making the world a better place (Tikkun Olam).

Within CHJ, putting these Jewish values into action is on prominent display, all the time.  It is the norm, it is encouraged and supported, and it is valued.

As Humanistic Jews we experience a double imperative. As Jews, we strive to live a moral and ethical life which includes reaching out beyond ourselves to the world to which we belong.  As Humanists, we recognize that as humans it is our responsibility alone, to work towards creating the kind world in which we want to live.

Personally, I find it extraordinarily gratifying and humbling to be associated with a community that contains so many people who give to others so freely and naturally.  CHJ is a community that doesn’t just believe in the values of Humanistic Judaism, it lives it. 

Kind regards

Steve Getz

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