Happy Chanukah! Chanukah is one of my favorite holidays—because what’s not to love about Chanukah? There are latkes and sufganiyot (jelly donuts)! And what’s Chanukah without the smell of oil wafting through the kitchen after hours of grating potatoes and frying up the delicious pancakes only to have them devoured in minutes? For me, Chanukah is about oil and miracles and food and family.
Chanukah is also a holiday that is celebrated in community, whether by lighting a giant “Chanukiah” (Chanukah menorah) in a public place or gathering together for a Chanukah party with a congregation, social group, or family. Community has been on my mind a lot lately, and not just in the context of Chanukah.
Community means so many things to so many people. We have our Jewish community. Our work community. Our social community. Our family community. And I even hear people talk about their “framily” community (no, that’s not a typo). All these overlap, of course, and that is what makes trying to define “community” such an intriguing task—particularly when trying to define our Orange County Jewish community.
When I was first hired as President & CEO of Jewish Federation & Family Services of Orange County, two of the most pressing questions were: 1) Where is the Orange County Jewish community today, and 2) Where are we going in the future? And these are big, big questions. The answers, as I see it, are closely tied to the mission of Jewish Federation & Family Services to strengthen Jewish community.
We “strengthen Jewish community” by increasing participation in Jewish life, encouraging philanthropy, offering leadership opportunities, and convening the community on important issues, as well as living Jewish values when we help those in need. But what, specifically, can we do to add the greatest value to our OC Jewish community? We at JFFS would like to know that too! And that is exactly the question Jewish Federation & Family Services is setting out to answer through the Orange County Jewish Community Study.
JFFS is only 52 years old, which makes us one of the youngest members of 147 Jewish Federations of North America. We are the only Jewish community of our size not to have done a community study, so this is an important and exciting project.
What do we hope to discover as a community? More about who we are, where and how we live, what we believe, what we value, and how and with whom we engage. We also want to gain insight into our needs, desires, and vision for ourselves, now and for our future, and our collective well-being. The ultimate goal of the Community Study is to provide insight and information that is valuable to all Jewish organizations in Orange County.
And what does this mean for you? Your opinion is important! We want to hear your voice—what’s important to you. How do you identify as Jewish? Do you observe all the holidays, just Passover, or just bagels and lox on a Sunday morning? Do you belong to any Jewish organizations, or is your connection to your Jewish family, friends, and heritage enough? What can we do to help you? Where should we be putting our dollars and our diligence? What are we missing? Without the answers to these questions, we can’t effectively move forward and provide the Jewish community of Orange County what you need. Your opinion matters!
The study will be coming in 2019. I just wanted to let you know that it’s important. As a part of the Jewish community—whether you’re Jewish or not—you are important, and your opinion matters.
A very Happy Chanukah!
ARLENE MILLER is the president & ceo of Jewish federation & family services