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.
Video and photo provided by Lisa Armony, Jewish Federation of Orange County Chief Impact Officer and Rose Project Director, who chaperoned this trip.
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.
Erik Ludwig, PhD
President & CEO
Jewish Federation of Orange County
1 Federation Way, Suite 210, Irvine, CA 92603-0174
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.