By Shelley Hubal
“Power comes from above and legitimacy comes from below.” – Frederick M. Lawrence
I recently attended the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Supreme Court Review. During his opening statement, Frederick M. Lawrence shared the above concept about power and legitimacy. Lawrence is a lawyer, civil rights scholar and 10th secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He is also the former president of Brandeis University and dean of the George Washington University Law School. He was just one of the outstanding scholars that participated in this fascinating review of the historic term our nation’s top court just finished. (If you are interested in watching a recording of the webinar, you can find it here.)
The speakers talked about how the conservative majority on the court overturned precedents that will have lasting effects on the American legal system for decades, possibly longer. Many of these changes are not agreeable to the majority of Americans. Should the Supreme Court pay attention to its approval ratings? It is supposed to be free of politics, but what happens if the people lose faith in its legitimacy? The Court is turning back many of our rights and there is no telling what is coming next. Will they abolish same-sex marriage? Affirmative action? Voting rights? These are all real possibilities.
Many of you know I prefer to stay out of politics. So, I am going to curb my comments on the court’s decisions here. There are plenty of talking heads out there to engage those who are looking for a debate. What I want to point out is how Lawrence’s statement relates to the work of Federation.
Each of our synagogues has a board, as do the Jewish Community Center and the Federation. In a small community, it is not unusual to see the same people active in leadership positions for years and Binghamton is no exception. Sure, committing to a leadership position often comes with some difficult discourse and a time commitment. However, if you want to make a difference in your community, there is no better place than serving on a board. This is where decisions are made about policy and funding. This is where there is the “power” to have an impact.
If a leadership board has the “power,” it is the community members that provide its social “legitimacy.” Simply put, we exist for you. Federation is your community organization. We provide Jewish programming for you. We raise and allocate funds so you will have a vibrant Jewish community in which to live. We provide critical support to our Jewish neighbors in need because you believe in tikkun olam. The list goes on.
In just over a month’s time, the Federation will begin its annual fund-raising Campaign. This is a critical time for our Jewish community. If you are currently a Binghamton resident, or if you have moved away, but still hold Binghamton close to your heart, we are hoping to get your support. We promise to keep doing the important work that makes this community whole and compassionate.
I am extending my gratitude to all of you for giving us legitimacy over the years. Wishing you all good health and happiness.