The Westchester Jewish Council is proud to announce a new initiative introduced to the Westchester Jewish community. Westchester rabbis, working across denomination lines, have embarked on Westchester 2040, a process to envision the Westchester County Jewish community in 2040. What, indeed, will the Jewish future look like?
Rabbi Howard Goldsmith, leader of the initiative and senior rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester, explained, “We want to lead with vision and purpose towards a bright future for this community.” After reading “doomsday articles” about the demography of the Jewish future, Rabbi Goldsmith began to think about ways that rabbis in the community could move from reacting to leading into the future. “I’ve always been inspired by the pluralistic, energetic cooperation and spirit of this community of rabbis. I believe that by harnessing that spirit, we can come to a vision that will help shape the future together with the demographers, sociologists, communal professionals and planners that allocate resources and shape the narrative about the Jewish community.”
With a grant from UJA-Federation of New York, along with help from the Westchester Jewish Council, the Westchester Board of Rabbis came on board and the group hired long-time consultant and coach to the Jewish community, Debra Brosan of Gestalworks, LLC, to lead a day of thinking and dreaming. With rabbis from diverse congregations from all over Westchester county, the first meeting yielded good results and great energy. This past fall, UJA-Federation’s Westchester Advisory Committee funded Westchester 2040 as a year-long initiative to facilitate the rabbis’ development of a joint rabbinic vision for the future.
Brosnan explained,”With some of the best rabbinic thinkers, real diversity and great energy, we’ve assembled a design team unafraid to dream of a dynamic, meaningful, sustainable and inspiring Jewish community. This kind of futuring is a groundbreaking methodology used by industry and has not been applied to any other Jewish community that we know of. The potential is limitless.” The process will involve intensive futuring sessions with members of the design team, one-on-one interviews with rabbinic leaders in the community, conversations with non-rabbininc stakeholders, a survey of the county’s more than 150 rabbis, and comprehensive analysis of the data. The process will yield not only a vision statement, but strategic opportunity maps that will help the Westchester Board of Rabbis and other community stakeholders as they plan for the future.
Elliot Forchheimer, CEO of the Westchester Jewish Council, added his optimism about the effort, “As we learn from the Book of Proverbs, ‘Without vision, the people perish.’ We applaud the dedication of our Westchester rabbis who are taking their expertise and time to work together to help craft our Jewish future. We look forward to learning of the vision and having it woven into the tapestry of Jewish Westchester.”
Although the outcome of the process is unclear, the vision can only propel the Jewish community forward. Rabbi Daniel Gropper, president of the Westchester Board of Rabbis and senior rabbi of Community Synagogue of Rye said, “Since Abraham and Sarah heeded God’s call to be a blessing, our people have envisioned a brighter tomorrow, even when we didn’t know exactly what that future looked like. This is an awesome opportunity to carry on this legacy. If there is one community that is poised for such a process, it’s the Westchester Jewish community.”
By Yvette Finkelstein