Rudin-Luria Discusses COVID-19 Challenges at JFNA GA

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Dena Boronkay Rashes, clockwise from top left, Aliza Kline, Isaac “Bougie” Herzog and Jewish Federation of Cleveland President Erika B. Rudin-Luria take part in a panel discussion Oct. 25 at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly.

Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News


Erika B. Rudin-Luria, president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, spoke of her concerns and hopes as one of three panelists in a discussion called “Innovative Jewish Leaders Re-envision Connection & Community Post-COVID” Oct. 25 as part of the Jewish Federation of North America’s General Assembly.

More than 10,000 people registered for the GA, which is being held virtually in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rudin-Luria spoke of the importance of connection.

“Connecting people and building community is at the core of everything we do at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, not just at the Federation, but in the Cleveland Jewish community,” Rudin-Luria said. “And if there was any doubt of its importance, the pandemic has erased all of that doubt. Because while our buildings have been largely closed, our Jewish community has worked to remain open and engaged. Much of our strength and resilience as individuals come from being part of something greater. It’s what keeps us from feeling isolated and alone, and it’s what reassures us. So we’ve had to re-envision how it is to be present in people’s lives.”

Rudin-Luria was on a panel with Isaac “Bougie” Herzog, chairman of the executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel in Jerusalem, and with Aliza Kline, co-founder and CEO of OneTable.

The moderator was Dena Boronkay Rashes, board member of Combined Jewish Philanthropies in Boston and of the American Joint Distribution Committee.

“In leading one of the larger Federations in North America, can you reflect on some of the challenges and opportunities you have faced as a leader during the pandemic?” Rashes asked Rudin-Luria. “And if you are able to share, how are you preparing for what comes next in your community?”

Rudin-Luria spoke of taking a long view at the challenges of the pandemic while responding in the moment.

“So, one of the largest challenges that I see are mental health and resiliency, and how do we keep up the resilience of the community,” she said. “We talk about it in terms of what do we want our children to tell our grandchildren about how we acted today? And that’s kind of our North Star. ... We want them to say, ‘We reached out in support of the isolated and vulnerable. We left no one behind. We made sure that no one needed to take time off from Jewish life because of the pandemic.’” And we have a list of kind of those visions which are goal posts to make sure that regardless of what happens during the next few months – the pandemic we can’t control – we believe we can control our actions and how our community experiences much of it.”

Herzog spoke of a silver lining being the digital platforms that are serving the Jewish communities across Israel and the world. He also said he was inspired by “tremendous volunteering.”

Kline spoke of anxiety, depression and hopelessness seen among two-thirds of participants of OneTable, which supports young adults to celebrate Shabbat in groups.

“At the same time, on the other hand, an even higher percentage – three quarters – have expressed increased gratitude for what they have in life,” Kline said. “And they express that often for a desire to protect others.”

Rudin-Luria said she hopes that individuals will realize that their actions can have an impact on others, positively or negatively.

“I think if we are able to demonstrate that the Jewish community is a source of strength and meaning and impact and resilience,” Rudin-Luria said, “then we will be a stronger and flourishing community.”

The two-day open General Assembly concludes Oct. 26 and then JFNA will hold its second FedLab Oct. 27, offered by invitation only.

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