Two Sundays ago, I was pedaling forcefully up a long and winding hill with rain pouring down on me. I was riding 36 miles with hundreds of others, and not one of us was deterred by the weather.
As our saying goes, we were “riding for the Jewish future” in The Jewish Federation’s fourth, and most successful, Tour de Summer Camps — the community-wide fundraising event that has raised millions of dollars and helped hundreds of children attend one of twelve life-changing Jewish summer camps in Los Angeles.
As we continued to ride, our motivation propelled us through the rain because we understood the profound impact Jewish summer camp has on children and young adults. Studies have shown that attending Jewish summer camp three years in a row is among the biggest drivers of lifelong Jewish identity. This summer of friendship, fun and a connection to something greater is the start of a Jewish journey that lasts long after sharing Havdalah under the stars. This is why we came together — to ride together — to give more kids the opportunity to experience Judaism and create a community at Jewish summer camp. Pushing my way up the hill, I passed and was passed by riders of every denomination with ties to almost every organization in our community. We helped and motivated each other to make it up the hill and finish the ride. For me, it reinforces the power of our community when we come together for a common purpose.
We often say that Los Angeles has many Jewish communities — but on October 30th, we were one community. It’s important that we unite for the generations that follow us, for them to know that we are stronger as one.
I rode with our new Consul General of Israel, Sam Grundwerg, and Sinai Temple’s Executive Director, Howard Lesner. (Full disclosure: they both are more experienced bike riders than I and I probably slowed them down.) We share a deep commitment to our Jewish community and to the State of Israel. Sam grew up in Miami Beach and brings a true understanding and sensitivity to his role as our new Consul General. He understands the impact of experiential and immersive Jewish and Israel experiences for our young people. Howard grew up here in L.A. and has spent seventeen years guiding and growing Sinai Temple. As a former camp director, he too shares our commitment to this work. I was honored to ride with two such passionate leaders, in addition to all the other incredible riders that day. The commitment, excitement and dedication to our kids and to our community was remarkable and truly inspirational.
There are a few sure things about next year. There will be a fifth Tour de Summer Camps on October 29, 2017. And I’m going to be pedaling even harder to make it happen and to send more kids to Jewish summer camps — EVEN if it rains. Rain or shine, our community comes together as one.
President & CEO
P.S. On Wednesday night, I was honored to accept the Israel Film Festival’s Community Leadership Award on behalf of our Federation, recognizing our central role in building the bridge between Israel and Hollywood. The Federation’s groundbreaking Master Class brought many of Israel’s top producers, directors and actors to Los Angeles and many of Hollywood’s top studio and network executives, producers, directors, agents and actors to Israel. The award is a true testament to the Federation’s commitment to Hollywood missions, which began in the 1960s and continue to this day.
I want to acknowledge several leaders who played a central role in this work: David Lonner, Tzi Howard Rosenman, Danny Sussman, Nina Tassler, Jonathan Littman, Lynn Roth and Adam Berkowitz.