The below articles were featured in the Winter 2016 Shalom New Haven Newspaper
It’s not every day that you can look forward to fulfilling your life’s dream, but that is just what I’m about to do when I join you as the chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation & JCC of Greater New Haven.
My name is Judy Diamondstein and I will be moving to New Haven from Allentown, Pennsylvania, where I have lived for the past 23 years, raising two children, Noah (22) and Molly (20), with my husband Marc.
Involvement in the Jewish community has always been a given for me, as I grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, the daughter of parents who were steeped in Jewish life as professionals and volunteers.
My dad was the JCC executive director before becoming the Jewish Federation executive and my mom was a JCC preschool teacher, Hebrew school teacher and community volunteer—ultimately becoming the president of the Jewish Federation’s Women’s Division.
Both my sister and I went into the family business after college. My sister Elise worked many years as the director of JCC’s Camp By the Sea in Margate, New Jersey, and I began my early career in Marblehead, Massachusetts, as the children and youth director before moving to Allentown and embarking on a career path that culminated in my most recent position as assistant executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley.
From the moment I stepped foot inside the Jewish Community Center in New Haven and received a warm greeting from the receptionist and then met with the search committee members, I knew I had found my new home.
In each of them, I saw a reflection of my belief in the strength of community through engagement, openness, collaboration, service and menschlikite.
In the synagogue, in which I grew up, the rabbi defined the congregation as a family of families. I believe that is also a wonderful way to describe the broader Jewish community and I am looking forward to joining my family with yours.
The Greater New Haven Jewish community has a proud tradition with dedicated professionals and volunteers. It will be an honor to work on your behalf and with you to move the community from strength to strength.
I understand that I will be following in the footsteps of a great community leader, Sydney Perry, and that those will be big shoes to fill. I also know that my learning curve will be steep and that I will be relying on the community to be my guide and teacher. Please know that I am not only open to your input, I welcome it.
This is a time for new beginnings founded in a deep respect for the past, but with great zest for the future.
Sydney Perry Reflects on Her Service
From Sydney Perry, Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven
My Dear Friends: As we begin the new secular year, it is natural to look backward at the past and look forward to the future just like the depictions of the two faces of Janus, the Roman god of new beginnings and transitions. I am delighted that on Jan. 4, Judy Diamondstein will join us in New Haven as the new CEO of our community. We all look forward to Judy’s arrival and to welcoming her.
In June 2014, at the annual meeting of the Federation, I announced my intention to retire in June, 2016. After serving almost 30 years at the Federation, “yomam v’laila,”day and often deep into the night, I maintain the same passion and sense of commitment as the first time I walked into my office on Whalley Avenue in July 1988.
Confucius has suggested that if you “choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life.” Over the course of my tenure at the Federation – first as Principal of MAKOM, the community Hebrew High School, then as the Director of the Department of Jewish Education, later the Executive Director of the Federation and, now, as the CEO of the merged Federation and JCC, I have been very fortunate that my personal, professional, intellectual and spiritual lives have been fully integrated into a perfect harmony.
I did not actually “choose” to move from Jewish education into the position of head of our community, but it has been my great privilege to represent our children, our elderly, our agencies, our synagogues, and the Jews of Greater New Haven from Milford to Madison, from Cheshire to Chester, and all points in between. This is the community where I was born, the community where I raised my six children, the community I believe in, sometimes more than it believes in itself, the community I love.
I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I have had to meet, to teach, and to learn from so many of you. As Steve Jobs once said: “We don’t get a chance to be that many things, and every one should be excellent, because this is our life…it better be worth it.”
And the Jewish people, Jewish ethics and values, and our community are profoundly worthwhile and deserve excellence. Your volunteerism, generosity and dedication allows us the rare prospect with our new leader to vision, to shape and to implement a stronger, better, more inclusive synergy. We can take enormous pride in our past accomplishments and now put renewed creativity, energy and commitment into planning and implementing for revitalized Jewish New Haven.
It has been a source of satisfaction and joy for me to have partnered with you, in some small way, in assisting the Federation to more fully realize itself as a caring community and garner the heart-share of our constituents. I know you will offer Judy the same support and collaboration.
I have learned the truth of what Indian poet Rabindranth Tagore wrote:
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy
I woke and found that life was service
I acted and behold – service was joy.”
Now we must work together to welcome Judy Diamondstein and work with our new CEO to develop sites of true creativity, profound meaning and vibrant connectivity. We are poised for success; we have strong rabbinic leadership and the best group of executive directors at our agencies that I have ever seen. The Federation system can remain a potent force in Jewish life because we help Jews come together and create a big impact for innovation. Our tradition’s sense of responsibility for one another and for repairing the world is as old as our history and as bright as what lies before us. There is a sacred past and the fulfillment of glorious promise ahead under Judy’s leadership.
I thank you all for your friendship, advice, support and dedication to our joint endeavor. I have treasured every single day and endeavored to serve our community with all my heart, with all my soul and all my might. I am deeply grateful to our lay leaders and to the staff of the Federation, Foundation and JCC, who are daily engaged in the holy work of strengthening Jewish life. May Judy find in you the joy and promise I have known and will keep with me forever.