On June 13, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island gathered for its annual meeting, recognizing the past and looking to the future.
For the seventh time, the group met as a combined organization to install leadership and to honor members of the community with several awards. For only the second time, the meeting took place in the renovated Gussie and Victor Baxt Social Hall at the Dwares Jewish Community Center in Providence. The crowd listened to Rabbi Noach Karp’s d’var Torah, which was followed by the presentation of the awards. Karp focused his message on the need to recognize the individual. “We need each other,” he said.
Three awards were presented this year.
Sharon Gaines, chair of the board of the Jewish Federation Foundation and immediate past chair of the board of the Jewish Alliance, received the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award. It honors extraordinary women who have set a high standard for philanthropy and volunteerism. Recipients are chosen by peers for being “women of valor” who have dedicated their lives to the Jewish world. Current chair of the board, Mitzi Berkelhammer, presented the award to Gaines, whom she called a dear friend. “She is a leader and a doer,” said Berkelhammer. “I am pleased to honor her tonight.”
Emily Dennen, a general studies teacher at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island (JCDSRI), was the first recipient of the Rabbi Alvan and Giveret Marcia Kaunfer Day School Educator Award. Dianne Newman, along with her husband Martin, established the award, which she presented, saying “Teachers are at the core of day school or any other education.” The award honors the Kaunfers, longtime community members, educators, and among the founding families of JCDSRI when it was known as the Schechter School. Dennen received $3,000 toward a professional development learning opportunity in Israel; she will return to JCDSRI to continue teaching there. She said she sees herself as a “Jewish educator” although she teaches general studies, and she is working to incorporate more Hebrew into her classes.
Rabbi Wayne Franklin, senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Providence, received the Joseph W. Ress Community Service Award. Serving the congregation since 1981, Franklin will retire in 2019. The Ress Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exemplary leadership at the Alliance, local or national Jewish agencies and in the general Rhode Island community. Joan Ress Reeves, Joseph’s daughter, presented the award with a dose of history and glowing words for Franklin.
“Wayne is especially worthy,” she said, pointing out that the award is not given each year. In addition to serving his congregation, Franklin has chaired the Community Relations Council, RI Interfaith Commemoration of the Holocaust, has been a leader in the Rhode Island interfaith community, and is a member of The Miriam Hospital’s Ethics Committee and Jewish Traditions Advisory Committee.
“You have given of yourself not just to the Jewish community but to the community at large,” Reeves said. “Above all, you are a mensch. Joe Ress would be proud.”
In his remarks, Franklin pointed out that he had learned that Joe Ress always said that it “was all right to disagree, but one must not be disagreeable in one’s disagreements.”
“Strengthening our community requires all of us to listen respectfully with open hearts and minds to what others with points of view extremely different from our own are saying,” said Franklin.
“We must acknowledge all our fellow Jews as authentic Jews though our beliefs and our forms of worship… are not identical.”
Rabbi Sarah Mack, president of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island, oversaw the installation of officers. Afterward, Mitzi Berkelhammer, chair of the board of directors, reported on the annual campaign fundraising. She said that more than $3 million has been raised so far in the 2018 campaign, which will end on June 30. “This is where our community comes together as one,” Berkelhammer said.
And she stressed the importance of increasing the numbers of those leading Jewish lives in our community. “We are working on new programs, and we will succeed [in this goal].”
In his remarks, President and CEO Adam Greenman, who is closing in on his first anniversary at the Alliance, took a look at the year’s achievements and spoke about what’s in store for the future, including a new strategic plan and new goals.
He said nearly 200,000 people had walked through the doors of the JCC, which houses 154 children at summer J-Camp, 54 in the Eides Family J-Space Afterschool Program, and sends teens to Israel and on the March of the Living.
“This is just the beginning. There is so much more that we can achieve when we come together.
“Our capacity for a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community in Rhode Island may be limitless. We celebrate what was and what will be,” he said.
“The Alliance is where we can all come together... and where anything is possible.”
To read Greenman’s entire speech, see page 9.
FRAN OSTENDORF (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the editor of The Jewish Voice.