A blockbuster event in Bridgeport… and lessons learned

At the Bridgeport event featuring the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick: (l to r) Judy Greenberg, Caroline Glick, Fred Leder, Dr. Richard Rubenstein.

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick drew quite a midsummer night’s crowd in Bridgeport last week. A capacity audience of 450-plus filled the Jewish Community Center’s parking lot about 20 minutes before the event was scheduled to start, but there was standing room only inside.
Aside from the large numbers, the genesis of this event was somewhat different, too. While the JCC/Federation hosted the event and provided the space, it was a dedicated group of individuals and organizations who funded the program. Led by Judy Greenberg, Fred Leder and Judy Block of the Israel Action Committee of Congregation Beth El in Fairfield, along with the help and support of seven synagogues, an ad hoc list of co-sponsors and funders — led by David and Edie Chaifetz — came together that was both impressive and diverse. It included synagogues from Bridgeport, Westport, Fairfield, and Trumbull. That list also reflected the attendance for the evening that included participants from all over Connecticut. The group of financial contributors even included a local church intent on showing solidarity with Israel. The Ledger was pleased to help promote the event with an interview of the speaker and other coverage.
There are a number of things that need to be said about this special evening. First and foremost among them is that Jews tend to coalesce around Israel when they sense she is in danger. We saw that happen in 1967, 1973, in the 80’s during the Lebanon conflict, and a number of times during the Oslo period. It is sad that the revival of Zionist passions in our communities is presaged by turbulence in Israel, but it is a common happenstance.
We also see this same reaction in terms of material support for Israel. Financial support always materializes when Federations inaugurate special supplemental campaigns for Israel to meet emergency needs. The Israel Emergency Funds of the last decade raised substantial amounts in response to Israel’s situations.
It also must be said that the post-Zionism nuance so prevalent in less tumultuous times is not as much in evidence amongst Jewish communities when Israel is besieged. The Arab Spring, the topic of Caroline Glick’s presentation, along with the existential threat to Israel looming out of Iran, have sparked increasing anxiety levels within each of our communities as well. There are also lessons to be learned closer to home.
The deep wellspring of feeling for Israel in her time of need speaks directly to the need for Federations to consistently program events that educate and inform about Israel and the role she plays in our priorities. This specific event itself also demonstrated a point we’ve raised in the Ledger on a number of occasions: Federations can work together across geographical lines more often on projects and events that are beneficial to them and their communities. For example, it would be a positive thing if there were one statewide celebration of the upcoming 65th anniversary of the State of Israel. Something else we’ve suggested, a statewide Super Sunday date for all Federation campaigns. If this isn’t practical for the whole state of Connecticut, then Fairfield County would be a great place to start. Last week’s event showed how it could be done. Congratulations to all who came together to make that point.


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