We are a community dedicated to enhancing the light. This year as Israel faces one of its greatest challenges, at least in my lifetime, I find that my soul needs Hanukkah more than ever. The smell of latkes frying. The sufganiot I had for breakfast (and shouldn’t have). Watching A Rugrats Chanukah, again. The warmth of being together with friends and family as we gather around the hanukkiah and celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah. It rekindles my soul.
This past Monday, we celebrated an important event in our community's calendar, the Federation's Annual Meeting. It was a time for reflection, and for recognizing the outstanding service of our leadership. We honored Heather Kline for her remarkable commitment and vision as Board Chair for the past three years. We expressed gratitude to outgoing leaders David Siegel, who served as Treasurer, and Adam Isaac Miller (our 2023 Mensch of the Year), who served as Campaign Chair. We also welcomed and installed new leaders including incoming Board Chair Amir Kahana and new Board members Yael Aronoff, Howard Levy, Lori Schwartz (our 2023 Woman of the Year), and Margot Shapiro. Thank you for your service, for bringing light into our community and working to build a more perfect world. I am so very grateful to all who were able to attend the Annual Meeting. Your presence and support are the bedrock of our community.
At the Annual Meeting we also heard from guest speakers Ayelet Sella, Dafna Sella, and Or Sella who had three family members killed and nine kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on October 7. In their sharing of the family’s story, we heard first-hand the unfathomable horror of terrorism and how the trauma of the war is felt by every Israeli. We also were witness to the courage, resilience and optimism that is emblematic of the Israeli spirit. The Sellas reminded us that our contributions and our advocacy are foundational to the resilience of our Israeli family. In that light, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to share that thanks to over 1,000 generous donors, we have raised more than $950,000 for our Israel Emergency Campaign to directly support Israel’s immediate and long-term needs. This is a testament to our collective strength and the deep bond we share with Israel.
The Federation’s Rose Project has worked diligently alongside community leaders to address the recent surge in acts of antisemitism across Orange County. On Monday and Tuesday, we were gratified to see that one-sided resolutions, which only served to deepen divisions and propagate Jew hatred, were rejected by both the Central Committee of the Orange County Democratic Party and the Santa Ana City Council. Our community is fortunate to have strong partners in the ADL Orange County/Long Beach and synagogue leadership. They deserve our gratitude for spearheading grassroots efforts that shaped the outcome. Our message is clear: there is no place for hatred and divisiveness in Orange County.
Our 2023 Annual Campaign ends on December 31. We need your financial support to ensure the continuation and success of programs and services that are core to the fabric of our Jewish neighborhood. When you donate to our Annual Campaign, you do more than just give – you AMPLIFY Jewish life and SUSTAIN the Jewish future in OC, Israel, and globally. Your contributions power our mission to convene, engage, and lead; to leverage resources for enhancing and sustaining Jewish life; to assist those in need; to mobilize on issues of concern to our local Jewish community; and to strengthen our bond with Israel and the global Jewish community. Please enhance the light this Hanukkah by making your gift today to support significant programs that combat antisemitism and all forms of hate, strengthen Jewish identities, and care for vulnerable populations.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah,
Erik Ludwig, PhD
President & CEO