Our Jewish community is changing. We are shrinking. There is no denying this fact. If you are lucky enough to go to Florida this winter, you will have lots of opportunities to see former Binghamtonians (or Bing-a-lings as my sister calls them). The changes we are experiencing are nothing new. I moved here 25 years ago and I recall discussions at Federation board meetings at that time about our shrinking community.
So, as Federation director, and a person who cares deeply about this community, what should I do? Can I fix this? I will be honest: I am not sure what to do. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this problem – worrying about how to cultivate future leaders, how to cultivate new sources of funding and how to attract the next generation of Jewish families who want to raise their children here. There are no easy answers. We may have to make difficult decisions in the future. Do we let some of our institutions fail? What would our community look like without the Jewish Community Center? What if we did not have The Reporter to keep us connected? What if one of our synagogues closed its doors? Anyone that cares about the Binghamton Jewish community and works to keep it whole does not want to see these things transpire.
So, we move forward. Have you heard of a radio show called “A Way with Words”? It airs on NPR and is described as “a fun radio show and podcast about language examined through family, history, and culture.” I enjoy listening to “A Way with Words” on Sunday afternoons, usually as I am driving around town doing errands. Looking at something as complex as language from a wider perspective gives me comfort. What I like most about this show is how well it illustrates the evolution of language through time. Language is always changing, as is our community, and it always endures. Maybe in a different form, but it endures.
We will evolve. We will endure. One thing I know for sure is this community is, and always will be, filled with compassionate people. Whether it is being on any number of local boards for years at a time, volunteering to raise funds, to cook a meal for a bereaved family or to make a donation, I have the pleasure of seeing the best of this community. So, let me say to the members of the Federation board, to all of our contributing members and to the community at large, thank you for being compassionate people who want to make the Binghamton Jewish community better for us all. I see your grace and kindness, and for that I am most grateful.