CEO Letter 6.19.20

by Jenn Ross

During the quarantine, I have had a lot of time for introspection and I’ve also been able to gain wisdom and insights from people near and far. There has been no shortage of scenario planning, but the majority of that has focused on the short term since our immediate needs have been critical and ever changing.

Recently, my colleague and friend Beverly Woznica, an Associate VP for communities our size at JFNA, challenged and inspired me to glimpse into a Jewish future that we can offer as a Federation to our entire community. Here are my thoughts on where I would like to lead us in safer times to come:

All of the best parts of our community will have survived this crisis.  We will still be a hamish (cozy) interwoven community where people know each other and genuinely care for each other’s well-being.  Collaboration amongst the synagogues and agencies will continue to grow and we’ll be able to better determine the needs of our most vulnerable and be able to provide for the spiritual, educational, cultural, intellectual, wellness, and other needs of everyone who lives here.

One of the surprising aspects of Harrisburg has been that our younger members of the community have migrated to cities seeking lifestyles not seemingly available here. I’ve often wondered about the trade-offs they’ve made. As people have been working from home, often cramped in small, expensive quarters in these cities, I’ve heard that it is likely that people will recognize the value of a suburban lifestyle, particularly those working in industries which will permit primarily remote workforces moving forward. Congratulations to Friends of Jewish Harrisburg who recently launched a Harrisburg recruitment newsletter and have already successfully recruited several young families to our area. I’m hoping that former residents will consider returning home and new individuals and families will identify the Greater Harrisburg area as their new home of choice.

Although we have been connecting primarily via telephone, teleconference, and email, and will likely continue expanding our use of technology to connect, I believe we will value our in-person connections in a way that we did not previously.  Likewise, the importance of our Jewish institutions, including our JCCs and synagogues as a place to build community and build faith (or your own place of worship for readers of other faiths) have become a place that people have deeply missed.  Currently, they remain closed, for everyone’s safety, but as we learn to adapt to the virus, and ultimately when its danger is fully addressed, I hope people recall their desire to congregate together with people they love and miss and do so regularly.

This is a time to rebuild community- to fill the classrooms at The Silver Academy so we have a Jewish Day School for decades and centuries to come. We can feel confident residing at the Campus of the Jewish Home which took strong ongoing protective measures against COVID-19 on behalf of its residents and staff. As we deal with the mental health challenges and stress of this crisis and of life in general, don’t forget the services offered to everyone regardless of religious faith at Jewish Family Service counseling services. And if you have been considering expanding your family, their AdoptionLinks program is the place to go. I am thankful for them every day for making Ned part of my forever family.

To help today, please consider a gift to the Federation’s Annual Campaign as we rebuild. To help tomorrow, please consider starting an endowment now and/or signing a letter of intent on behalf of the Federation and/or any of our amazing synagogues or agencies at the Jewish Community Foundation of Central Pennsylvania.  We need you to build this amazing future.  Thank you for your consideration of support now or later.

In closing, I reflect upon my thinking before I started writing this column.  What came to mind was Judy Chicago’s “Merger Poem” which I have become very fond of thanks to Rabbi Eric Cytryn who frequently included this special reading into our Friday night prayers. I wish him and Amy the best of luck during retirement. Harrisburg has been blessed to have them as an active part of our community the past seventeen years and their departure will be notable. Welcome to Rabbi Ariana Capptauber and husband Baruch who will be valued new members of our hamish community.

Until we reach our better future, I hope you are able to embrace the best of now.  JFNA has created a beautiful short video which I watch whenever I want to recall the bright lights of this challenging time. Please let me know your thoughts and vision for those days and what your needs are now. I can be reached at