A Message from the President & CEO
September 2, 2022

Shalom Chaverim (Dear Friends),Erik Ludwig
 
This week’s parshaShoftim, focuses on creating justice in the world. We are instructed on what is prohibited (idolatry and sorcery), and also on the processes needed for justice to be administered (the appointment of judges and proper use of witnesses): You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that your G-d is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice (Deut. 16:18). Justice, justice shall you pursue… (Deut. 16:20).
 
It is as if Shoftim is preparing the foundation for our building a more just world. It seems only fitting, then, that on the week of our reading this portion, I spent last Tuesday at Driving Out Darkness: Orange County Summit on Antisemitism and Hate. This first-of-its-kind conference in Orange County was a response by Federation’s Rose Project to rising incidents of antisemitism and hate in our community, across the country, and around the world.
 
The summit brought together a predominantly non-Jewish audience of over 300 participants from throughout Orange County. In attendance were K-12 educators and administrators, superintendents and school board trustees; university and community college administrators; elected officials including county supervisors, city council members, several mayors and the Orange County District Attorney; faith and interfaith leaders, nonprofit and civic leaders, law enforcement, and others. They explored the history and contemporary manifestations of antisemitism, and the relationship of antisemitism to other forms of hate and threats to democracy, with highly respected national leaders and academics such as Ambassador Rabbi David SapersteinOren Segal, and Eric Ward. They also participated in workshops on themes ranging from Preventing Antisemitism in K-12 Schools to How Elected Officials Lead the Fight Against Hate, and many more.
 
The summit made visible that antisemitism, like racism, has a human cost. It places a burden on our psychological well-being, physical health, and ability to congregate and celebrate communally. A central theme of the summit was that antisemitism is not just a problem for Jews. Federation Chief Impact Officer Lisa Armony, whose leadership made the summit possible, quoted Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l in her opening remarks: “The appearance of antisemitism in a culture is the first symptom of a disease, the early warning sign of a collective breakdown. The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. No society that has sustained antisemitism has ever sustained liberty or human rights or religious freedom.”
 
Participants were led to understand that antisemitism is the core of many forms of hate and the decay of democratic institutions. As a result, we all have a stake in fighting it, just as we must combat hate of all kinds.
 
The summit was an example of what Federation does best. As the convenor of community, we bring people together, based on shared values, to create a stronger, richer, more resilient Jewish future. The summit was a unique opportunity to bring together partners from the Jewish and non-Jewish community alike. For those who attended and those whose wisdom shaped the deep learning, the summit was a step towards building a better future. Such moments are never realized in a single action or through the singular work of an individual or organization. The meaningful and lasting impact of the summit was possible only because of the remarkable program partnership of the ADL of Long Beach/Orange County, Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot, the UCI Center for Jewish Studies and UCI’s Office of Inclusive Excellence, and a great many ally partners and program sponsors. This was an important first step, and we are not done. We have already begun exploring ways to build on this foundation of community partnership and develop future programs that combat antisemitism and drive out darkness.
 
Together, we amplify Jewish life in Orange County, Israel and globally.
 
As the coming High Holy Days offer a time of renewal, please consider renewing your commitment to Jewish community by donating to the Annual Campaign. It is the generosity of people like you that allows Federation to lead the community in combating antisemitism, caring for those in need, and providing innovative community programs.
 
May we all go from strength to strength.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
 
Erik Ludwig



Erik Ludwig
President & CEO
Jewish Federation of Orange County

 

Federation Supports Teen Journey to Poland
 

Dear Friends,
 Heather Kline 
Though much of work of Jewish Federation of Orange County seeps seamlessly into the private stories of the individuals and families we assist, sometimes the ripple effect of our work sings loudly for us. When I am rewarded with powerful impact stories made possible through the work of Federation, it is important to share them with you. Your continued support of Federation is directly responsible for this critical impact.
 
This year, Jewish Federation, through its Passport to Jewish Life program, provided more than $38,000 in scholarships to 84 Orange County children and teens to participate in identity-building Jewish summer programs. Among them were five teens, members of Orange County’s Shevet Tapuz Israel Scouts chapter, who earlier this month joined peers from Israel for a weeklong Holocaust education trip to Poland. Together with their madrichim and educators, they visited Nazi death camps and the remains of the Warsaw and Krakow ghettos. They learned about Poland’s vibrant Jewish life before the war, and the destruction of Jewish civilization by the Nazis and their collaborators. They explored their identity as Jews and as citizens of the world and contemplated deep educational questions that will shape the adults they will become.
 
One of the most poignant moments of the trip took place in Tykocin, a small town two hours north of Warsaw. Jews first came to Tykocin after being exiled from Spain in the 1500s. They built a beautiful synagogue in 1642 and Jewish life flourished for over 400 years. In August 1941, the Nazis arrived in Tykocin. They rounded up the Jews in the town square and murdered them in the nearby forest over the course of three days. Their mass grave remains a memorial to the victims. Only 150 of the town’s 2000 Jews survived the operation.
 
With Tykocin empty of Jews, the old synagogue has been turned into a small museum. What was once the hub of Jewish meeting, prayer, learning and celebration is now a place of silence. But on a sunny afternoon last week, the voices of the 200 Jewish teens on the Scouts trip filled the synagogue once again with Hebrew song from Psalms 34. 
 
It was a transformative moment in these young people’s Jewish journeys, connecting past and present in a way they will never forget.   
 
Click here to watch the video.
Translation of Lyrics: Who is the man who desires life, and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good. Seek peace, and pursue it.

These are the moments that Jewish Federation was built for. When you make a gift to Jewish Federation’s Annual Campaign, you provide the next generation with experiences that inspire them to celebrate their Jewishness today and tomorrow.
 
Please make your gift to Jewish Federation today.
 
May the memory of the Jews of Tykocin and all of the victims of the Holocaust be a blessing.
 
With gratitude for the honor of serving as your Board Chair, I wish you a Shabbat shalom.
 
 Heather Kline


 

Heather Kline
Chair

 

 Israeli Scouts


Video and photo provided by Lisa Armony, Jewish Federation of Orange County Chief Impact Officer and Rose Project Director, who chaperoned this trip.

 

 


June 10, 2022

Shalom Chaverim (Dear Friends),
 
 
Last week, we received remarkable news that Jewish Federations have partnered with the Jewish Agency and Government of Israel to bring roughly 3,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel this year. This represents a continuation of a commitment to Ethiopian Jewry that began with Operations Moses and Sheba (1984-1985) that rescued Ethiopian Jews from Sudanese refugee camps and more recently Operation Solomon (1991) that was a response to civil unrest within Ethiopia, airlifting over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The current population of 160,000 Ethiopian Israelis represent approximately 2% of the total Israeli population, many of whom live in our Federation’s sister city, Kiryat Malakhi.
 
It is significant that such an undertaking, what will become the fourth Aliyah for Ethiopian Jewry, has its beginning coincide with Shavuot—a holiday that, for me, renews our connection to Torah and reminds us, as is suggested in this week’s parsha Naso, that Torah is the foundation for our service to community, klal Yisrael.
 
As a parent of Ethiopian children, I am proud of Federation’s affirmation of Ethiopian Jewry as klal Yisrael. While it is true that Ethiopian Israelis face unique challenges of status in Israel and that my own children could tell you stories that suggest we have more work to do in pursuit of diversity and inclusion, it is also true that they have been the beneficiaries of an obligation to justice that has been woven throughout our history into the tapestry that is Jewish peoplehood.
 
We are commanded, “Justice, justice you shall pursue…” (Deuteronomy 16:20).
 
Thank you for building a more just world. Your gift of tzedakah allows us to fulfill our communal obligation to Jewish peoplehood and the future of Jewish life in Orange County, Israel and around the world.
 
May we all go from strength to strength,



Erik Ludwig, PhD
President & CEO
Jewish Federation of Orange County
1 Federation Way, Suite 210, Irvine, CA 92603-0174
Erik@JFFS.org

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Our Jewish community is saddened and outraged by the horrific assault on worshipers of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods this afternoon, in which one congregant lost their life and others were wounded, several critically. We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased, and we pray for the full and speedy recovery of the injured. We honor the extraordinary bravery of churchgoers who subdued and restrained the suspect until first responders arrived.

Our hearts are with the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church, and we have reached out to express our support in their time of grief.

Shalom Chaverim (Dear Friends),
 
Thank you for the warm welcome to my position as President and CEO of Jewish Federation of Orange County. In these early weeks, I have witnessed the optimism and strong sense of community that we share for the future of Jewish life in Orange County, Israel, and globally.

Through our Ukraine Emergency Campaign, we are responding to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. To date, we have raised over $200,000 from over 330 community members as part of Jewish Federations of North America, a network of Federations, that has helped raise over $44 million to provide humanitarian aid, housing, transportation, and support for aliya/refugee absorption in Israel through our overseas partners, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI).

At this year’s Women’s VOICES on Sunday, April 3, we came together to celebrate and recognize Ann Moskowitz for her life of leadership, specifically all that she has done to secure Jewish identity and future leaders through the Passport to Jewish Life program. It was an honor to get to know Ann through this gathering and to be part of this milestone in her inspiring life story. 
 
This year’s VOICES also included the special announcement of the establishment of Temple Beth Emet’s legacy gift to our community through an endowment of $500,000 to support the Federation’s Passport to Jewish Life program, which is so near and dear to Ann. If you haven’t had the chance, please join me in thanking Ann for her leadership and service to our community, strengthening it from generation to generation. We are grateful to Andrea Alfi, Women’s Philanthropy President and to Tanya Newman, our Voices Chair, for bringing some 240 of us together and for helping lift the Annual Campaign to $1.2 million.
 
As my fourth week in this role comes to its culmination, I want to answer a question that a few of you have asked about why I made the choice to leave academia to lead Jewish Federation of Orange County. It is, in actuality, less a leaving and more of a continuation.
 
I believe that Federation’s purpose is to amplify Jewish life. As an amplifier of Jewish life, Federations have three essential functions at this time: strengthening Jewish identity; developing Jewish leaders; combating antisemitism and anti-Jewish sentiment. In the coming months, I look forward to discussing how, with your meaningful support, Federation will approach these challenges and continue its work to amplify Jewish life in Orange County.
 
Jewish Federation of Orange County is a unique platform for building and shaping Jewish peoplehood. As I prepare for Passover with family and friends, it occurs to me that there is perhaps no better cornerstone for the foundation of Jewish peoplehood in a postmodern world than Passover. In a time when members of Jewish families live in different zip codes and in which the ways we define Jewish neighborhood are increasingly complex, Passover reconnects us to a shared sense of peoplehood by requiring of all of us to relive the story of Exodus, our shared journey from slavery to freedom. It requests of us that we gather as family, bound by our collective memory, and that we open our homes as refuge to the stranger. “You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).
 
I find one of the infinite wisdoms of Passover is that we are directed both to tell the story to our children, which indicates that we are among family, and we are taught to welcome outsiders, which hints at a broader understanding of who is familial. In doing so, Judaism asks us to recognize both kinship and fictive kinship. It uniquely conceptualizes Jewish peoplehood in inclusive terms, emphasizing the importance of the recognizable, our own family, and the unrecognizable other. To make this point, the scholar Everett Fox rather brilliantly identifies Moses’ identity as fluid. Fox states, “We learn all we need to know about Moshe’s early personality: he is Hebrew-identifying but Egyptian-looking” (p. 262). This early Moses is neither recognizable in his visage nor in his customs. Fox presents us with a Moses who is an allegory for a Jewish people that is becoming rather than arrived.
 
Our retelling of the Exodus story is an affirmation of our continued becoming. In a postmodern world, it is admittedly difficult to understand ourselves this way. The artificial intelligence software in the devices we use daily, perhaps even the device on which you are reading this reflection, is designed to promote a sense of curated completedness. The wisdom of Judaism is that it asks us to ignore the AI and instead engage the novel by questioning what is known and by welcoming those who may be unknown to our family’s Seder table. There is no shibboleth (password) required to gain entrance to the Seder. It requires only our faith in Jewish peoplehood and our belief that this night is in fact different from all other nights.
 
From my family to yours, and from all of us at Jewish Federation of Orange County, warmest wishes for a meaningful and sweet Passover.
 
Shabbat Shalom,



Erik Ludwig, PhD
President & CEO
Jewish Federation of Orange County
1 Federation Way, Suite 210, Irvine, CA 92603-0174
Erik@JFFS.org

Eric

Erik Ludwig Appointed President & CEO of Jewish Federation of Orange County

After an extensive nationwide search, the Board of Jewish Federation of Orange County is delighted to announce the appointment of Erik Ludwig, PhD as the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer.

“Erik is a talented, innovative leader with a passion for community who has had a transformational impact on every organization he has served,” said Heather Kline, Chair of Jewish Federation of Orange County. “We are excited to partner with him and have enormous confidence in him to lead our Federation in fulfilling its critical mission to care for the Jewish community and to ensure the stability and growth of Jewish Federation of Orange County.” 

Erik shared, “I am humbled and honored to accept the position as President and CEO to this organization which has served as a foundation for Jewish life in Orange County and beyond since its incorporation as the Jewish Community Council in 1965. While our understanding of the Jewish neighborhood has changed a lot since then, our connection to the past—our shared history of Jewish peoplehood—can be a profound building block for a better future. I look forward to our partnership shaping that Jewish future and working toward a more perfect world.”

Adam Miller, Chair of the search committee, explained, “In seeking our next executive leader, we wanted someone who understood the innovative spirit of our community and the importance of Federation in strengthening Jewish life in Orange County. In Erik, we found a leader whose business acumen and track record of entrepreneurship is the right fit for our community.”

Erik has served as a Jewish communal professional for the past 20 years and brings a wealth of experience, strategic vision, and deep communal relationships to this role. He is recognized as one of the Jewish community’s most innovative and entrepreneurial leaders with a strong record of spearheading organizational change within mature organizations. His strengths were most recently demonstrated during his seven-year tenure as Director of the Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management at Hebrew Union College where he oversaw the school’s revitalization and growth. Among his numerous accomplishments, he tripled student enrollment by redesigning core academic programs to meet the needs of students in a rapidly changing Jewish professional ecosystem, and significantly grew the school’s organizational capacity through increased philanthropy. Prior to his role at HUC, Erik served as Chief Operating Officer at Upstart Bay Area. He currently serves on the advisory council of IsraAID US and on the advisory board of Jewish Interactive. Erik holds a PhD from the University of Utah, an MA from Humboldt State University, and a BS from the University of Utah. 

 



As we share this good news with our community, we are conscious of the suffering of the people of Ukraine. The humanitarian crisis that is unfolding serves as a poignant reminder that the act of tzedakah is sacred and life-giving. Please join our communal response and give through Jewish Federation’s Ukraine Emergency Campaign