Alliance ‘zooms’ through annual meeting

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About 100 people gathered via Zoom on June 17 for the ninth annual meeting of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island. The meeting wasn’t all that different from the large gatherings of the past – while you couldn’t schmooze with other participants, you could still see them. And, in reactions similar to those at meetings of synagogues and organizations throughout the area, attendees said they enjoyed seeing friends and neighbors gathered together even on a screen.

The somewhat abbreviated meeting – it lasted an hour – opened with a d’var Torah by Rabbi Michelle Dardashti, of Brown University and Brown RISD Hillel. Rabbi Barry Dolinger, of Congregation Beth Sholom, in Providence, the Alliance’s vice chair of Governance, presented the slate of officers and board members. A vote was taken by a show of hands on Zoom.

 Rabbi Michael Fel of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence, installed the officers and board members, while encouraging them to be courageous and strong. On screen, “jazz hands” congratulated the new team. The process was repeated for the Jewish Federation Foundation and the Alliance Realty Board.

Remarks by James Pious, chair of the board, focused on the work of the Alliance in the last year, including arranging for renewable energy, forming a partnership with Congregation Beth Sholom, raising funds for relief and recovery from COVID-19 and strategic planning.

“The last year has provided us with a great map to follow into the 21st century,” Pious said, citing goals focusing on increasing connections throughout the community, increasing collaboration between agencies and synagogues, and making Judaism accessible to all.

“With great challenge comes great opportunity. I’m confident that we will emerge a stronger, more vibrant Jewish community.”

In a presentation particularly relevant to today, Frederic Reamer, a professor in the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College, spoke on “Coping with Adversity: Lessons Learned During Challenging Times.” Reamer, who is also the host and producer of “This I Believe New England,” a National Public Radio program of interviews and essays, talked about how we all look for meaningful ways to cope with adversity. 

“We are living in a remarkably challenging time … we are saturated and overwhelmed with this cascade of troubling news,” he said.

“All of us search for meaningful ways to cope with adversity.” 

Reamer told the stories of three young men who had coped with incredibly challenging situations and turned their lives around. These are men he’d met while serving on the Rhode Island Parole Board.

Reamer’s message: They faced adversity, coped with adversity and learned from adversity.

They all had a sense of purpose, he said. “They recognized possibilities beyond one’s self and a way to contribute to the commonweal.”

“We need hope now,” Reamer said. “And the Alliance is all about giving people hope.”

Adam Greenman, president and CEO of the Alliance, closed out the meeting with reflections on the past three years and an outline of the next three, including a look at the community under the new strategic plan. You can find his remarks here.

FRAN OSTENDORF (fostendorf@jewishallianceri.org) is the editor of Jewish RI.