Reflecting on the past, looking toward the future


These remarks were presented June 13 at the seventh annual meeting of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. They are slightly edited for publication.


Last year I sat in the audience of this event with the not-yet public knowledge that I’d be joining the Alliance as its next president and CEO.  Sitting in this room, which at the time had just reopened after an extensive renovation, I could not help but think about the concept of renewal and that the Alliance had such a strong foundation to build from.  As we said goodbye and thank you to Jeffrey Savit for all that he had done, I thought about the challenges we would face as an organization and as a community, and that there was just so much to accomplish.

One year later, there is still much to do, but I’m so proud of everything we’ve achieved.  In the past year, we came together to develop a strategic plan that set goals for the Alliance through the end of the decade.  We raised more than $3 million to support the community here in Rhode Island and overseas.  We have nearly completed the $6 million renovation of this building, ensuring its continued use for the next half century and beyond.  And in the last year more than 200,000 people have walked through the doors of the Alliance.  Last summer, 154 children made lasting memories at summer J-Camp.  Fifty-four children had fun throughout the year in our safe and structured Eides Family J-Space Afterschool Program.  Our community sent teens on the life-changing trip March of the Living, and even more will be experiencing Israel this summer. We helped vulnerable individuals and families with our partners at Jewish Family Service and Jewish Seniors Agency (soon to be Jewish Collaborative Services) along with our synagogue and congregation partners through Access Jewish Rhode Island. 

That is just a fraction of what we have accomplished at the Alliance over the past year and only a fraction of what our community has achieved through the work of our partners, who truly help sustain and enrich our Jewish community here in Rhode Island.  This is just the beginning.  There is so much more we can do when we come together. 

I have thought a lot about our name: Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.  There is so much meaning to dissect.  For a long time, I thought about the name through the lens of our past.  The Alliance was a coming together of three organizations into one.  Out of the Federation, JCC and Bureau of Jewish Education merger came the Alliance.  But during our strategic planning process, someone said something that made me think about our name in a whole new light.

When the name was created, it may have been focused on organizations coming together.  But moving forward, let’s redefine its meaning.  An alliance is people coming together working toward a mutual goal.  Our Alliance is one where the entire community can come together.  Whether you are Jewish, Jew-ish or not Jewish, the Alliance is a place where everyone is welcome to learn, grow, celebrate and inspire.

We’ve taken steps to make sure we live up to this promise.  We’ve partnered with Keshet, a national organization that works for full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life.  We’ve revised policies like our anti-harassment policy to make it clear that harassment in any form will not be tolerated.  And we’ve made ourselves more visible to the larger community, so that people know that this is a place where everyone can feel welcome.

Coming together helps our community, but it also spurs innovation.  Together we can do things big and small.  Let’s dream big.  Over the last 10 months I’ve asked people for ideas on how we can strengthen the Alliance and our community.  Some ideas have been practical, some have been grand, some have been truly out of the box, but they have all come from a desire to strengthen and grow our community. 

It does not matter whether we implement all of these ideas, because the creative juices in our community are flowing.  From thinking about how Jewish values can be instilled through Drivers Ed or an SAT prep course to a Hanukkah-themed escape room.  From a mobile JCC to a venture fund for new Jewish start-ups.  From partnerships with non-Jewish organizations to new platforms to ensure local Jewish agencies have the resources they need to strengthen our community. We may not do it all, but I assure you we will try new things.  These new ideas will only be successful if we come together.

When we come together, we can pool our shared resources: time, energy, talent and, yes, financial resources toward a stronger community.  We can come together and face those challenges that affect not just our Jewish community in Rhode Island but communities around the country and around the world. When we come together, our capacity for a strong, more vibrant Jewish community in Rhode Island may be limitless.

The work of building our new Alliance begins tonight.  It begins with all of us.  I’m so happy to be here tonight with all of you to celebrate not just what was but what will be.  Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your fellow congregants that the Alliance is where we can all come together, where we can create the community that we envision for ourselves and where anything is possible.

ADAM GREENMAN is president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater RI.