By Reporter staff
When Shelley Hubal was looking forward to her first full year as Federation executive director at the beginning of 2020, she was filled with energy and hope for the upcoming year. “I was so excited about the things I wanted to accomplish,” said Hubal. “I had so many great plans for events we were going to hold. Then the pandemic hit. Yet, we still managed to accomplish a great deal before and after the closures occurred.”
In January, the Federation held a community gathering in response to antisemitic attacks that were occurring in the U.S. Area rabbis and community leaders led the gathering in song and prayer. Hubal noted the purpose of the event was “to recognize our freedom and rejoice in the loving community spirit we have here in Binghamton. We wanted to stand together as proud Jewish people and show that love wins over hate.”
Although the Chesed Challenge brunch, which was to include a concert, was cancelled due to the pandemic, the Chesed Challenge, which ran from the end of March through April, still raised $10,000 to meet a matching grant. The Federation’s new website, www.jfgb.org, went live in April. Even though the in-person Film Fest was cancelled, the Fest showed three films online. It also held live virtual discussions about the films the Monday after each showing.
To help keep the community connected, the Federation took part in a virtual Yom Hashoah event on April 20 and held a gathering called “Strengthen Ourselves, Strengthen Each Other” on June 14. The event was a way for the community to come together and to offer comfort and connection to those who were feeling isolated.
The Federation launched its 2021 Campaign on October 18 with a Super Safe Super Sunday. The theme of the Campaign this year is “Socially Distant, Spiritually Connected.” On November 30, the Federation held a virtual “Conversation with Michael Oren,” a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., who talked about his book of short stories “The Night Archer and Other Stories.”
The Federation closed its year with an in-person Hanukkah drive-up event complete with the candle lighting of a nine-foot menorah; and gelt and doughnuts passed out to people in their cars. The event also included live Hanukkah music. “We thought it was a wonderful way to unite our community and bring some light to the end of a dark year,” said Hubal. “Plus, it will be fun to look back in history and say we did a COVID safe event in our cars! Very 2020.”
Hubal noted that this was not the end of pandemic programming. “We are already looking ahead to 2021. The Film Fest Committee has met and we plan to do several more virtual films this winter and have tentatively planned an in-person film for late spring. So there is plenty to look forward to.
“Although the year did not go as originally planned, I’m pleased with all we were able to accomplish,” Hubal said. “This community pulled together and showed its spirit. I’m looking forward to keeping us connected during the remainder of the pandemic and seeing everyone in person once the pandemic is over.”