December 20, 2023

Expecting the Unexpected

Jane Wilf Centennial Chair

We are now halfway through our Federation’s centennial year, and two of our biggest takeaways so far happen to be old idioms – that the best-laid plans may not work out as expected and that sometimes the darkest clouds can have bright silver linings. 

Our Centennial celebration began in July with a mission to Israel 500-people-strong where members of our Greater MetroWest community connected with the people and State of Israel as well as our partners on a deeply personal level. Never could we have imagined that just a few days before our next big event, the Centennial Opening Event, Hamas terrorists would launch a surprise attack on Israel, including on some of our partner communities, killing more than 1,200 and abducting hundreds of Israeli men, women, and children.  

What was planned as a celebration became a meaningful opportunity to come together, to express solidarity with Israel, to listen to inspiring and moving Jewish music sung in Yiddish, and, most importantly, to comfort one another in our pain. It turned out to be exactly what our community needed at that moment. 

Last week, two of our Centennial programs, a luncheon to honor Holocaust survivors and their families and a breakfast to express our deep appreciation for our partner agencies and their work supporting community members both felt even more relevant and important given the current crisis, including a dramatic rise in antisemitism.  

Since October 7 we have helped organize an enormous rally for more than 1,000 people in Greater MetroWest, have raised tens of millions of dollars to support Israel; have held countless webinars, live-streaming events, and smaller community forums to bring people together to learn, discuss, share thoughts and feelings; pulled off a few unexpected missions to Israel to show our support and solidarity with our friends and family; and organized 42 buses to bring almost 2,000 members of our Greater MetroWest community to Washington, D.C., to participate in what would be the largest gathering of Jews in history. It was an experience no one will forget.  

As we approach 2024 and the second half of our centennial year, we encourage you to take part in the amazing experiences planned, including a community-wide Shabbat and braiding sessions with the Challah Prince; a community art exhibit highlighting the work of our own Greater MetroWest artists; and the release of our keepsake cookbook, Greater MetroWest at the Table, which you can pre-order now (use code GMW100 for 10% off the $36 cookbook price). We also anticipate the unexpected.  

This is exactly what Federation does. Of course we plan, but then we are willing and able to pivot as needed to address the immediate needs of our community, of Israel, and of the Jewish people worldwide. We work hand in hand with our local and international partners and allies. We bring people together. We provide our community with information and security and a voice to speak up for our core values and beliefs. It’s what Federation has been doing for 100 years! Please explore this century of rich community history in the interactive timeline. So, while the word “celebrate” doesn’t feel right at a time of such suffering and grief, we must acknowledge, commemorate, mark, observe this milestone and the strong Jewish community it represents. 

The silver lining during an epic crisis like this is that it reveals what we are truly made of. It shows us what we can accomplish and how, together, we generate a palpable feeling of comfort, of energy, and of Jewish pride and empowerment. If you’ve been to one of our events or programs since October 7, you know exactly what we mean. If not, we hope you will join us in the future. If you don’t already receive our weekly e-newsletter subscribe now, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram, to keep up with all Federation upcoming events. Register, make a point to show up, and experience it for yourself. I guarantee you won’t regret it. 

I don’t have words to express how deeply appreciative I am of the volunteers and professionals who continue to work tirelessly to make this centennial year a meaningful and important one. And remember, none of this work happens without donor support of the UJA Annual Campaign. So please make a gift today and help us remain nimble and strong as we prepare to put 2023 to bed and to be ready to respond to all future needs in the year ahead.