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A New Year for Jewish Milwaukee
August 31st, 2012
A New Year is a time of deep reflection. With each New Year that approaches, I spend time thinking about where I am and where I am going; what I have accomplished in my life personally as well as professionally.
This New Year marks the beginning of my tenure as board chair of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. I am honored and humbled to be embarking on this journey.
In 1996, I took my first trip to Israel. I could not possibly have imagined back then that the trip would lead me down a long and rewarding path of communal involvement.
At the time, I was blessed with a wonderful career as vice president of marketing at Cardinal Stritch University for the College of Business. Between my career and a full and busy family life, I had little extra time for outside activities.
But I could not ignore the effect of my first Israel experience upon me. I realized then the importance of becoming involved in the Jewish community.
Since then, my life has been greatly enriched by the many opportunities I have been given to serve our wonderful community.
As I turn my focus now to the future, and this new opportunity, a simple vision emerges: Community — Klal Yisrael. This is what makes us unique and special.
We have challenges ahead, yet our strong sense of community is the bond and strength that is so essential in facing these challenges head-on. I have no doubt that we will persevere and continue to flourish.
Our future also includes our new chief executive officer/president Hannah Rosenthal who will lead us, teach us, and take us to places that we have never been.
Jewish community is our “covenantal” bond with one another. We as Jews do not exist alone. We do not even pray alone. We need each other.
As Holocaust survivor, author, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel observed, “A Jew alone is vulnerable, that’s why Jews must not be alone.”
With this bond comes responsibility — to each other (Klal Yisrael) and to the entire world (tikkun olam). One of the means by which we fulfill this responsibility is tzedakah: reaching out to those in need is central to Jewish living.
As I see it, my primary purpose as board chair of the MJF is to focus on ways and means to perpetuate and strengthen our community. This is what we heard last summer at the Community Summit, which gathered more than 300 individuals from all parts of our community, young and old.
The Milwaukee Jewish Federation committed to a process of transformational change in the last months of 2011, with a goal of giving new life and energy to our organization so that we may better fulfill our mission and meet the needs of the community.
We need to be a warmer, more inclusive community, and I pledge to work towards making these dreams a reality. My 29 years of experience at Cardinal Stritch University will certainly be an asset in moving forward and implementing positive change.
The Summit allowed us to dream big. We dreamed of a future where all Jewish people will have the cultural, recreational, educational, and other opportunities needed to live Jewish lives.
We often hear that it is expensive to be Jewish. It is certainly true that there are costs associated with living a Jewish life, but I feel that the cost to our community will be far greater if we don’t provide access to Jewish life for all. I intend to work with our passionate and talented community leaders to make these dreams a reality.
One of our main objectives this year is to form a financial resource development work group to explore ways to increase endowments and annual funds that will enable us all to fully participate in all aspects of Jewish life.
When I think of the Milwaukee Jewish community, I think of a beautiful piece of music with each one of us as an instrument. Some of us might be mellow clarinets, some might be blaring trumpets, and some of us might be the silent notes or rests.
But it’s only by all of us working together and each playing our parts, no matter how big or small, that we create the beautiful music that is the Milwaukee Jewish community.
On behalf of the entire board of directors, I wish you shanah tovah-u’metukah. May we be renewed for a good year, a year of health, happiness and peace through Israel and the rest of the world.
Marlene Lauwasser is board chair of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.