CEO Letter 7.2.21

By Jenn Ross


When I think of our Jewish community, the word “Hamish”, Yiddish for homelike or warm, comes to mind.

I value the strong interconnectivity of our Jewish and broader community, which embraces community members regardless of their congregational affiliation.  Even before becoming the CEO of the Jewish Federation, I felt welcome at any synagogue, whether attending services or a community program.  And certainly, walking into the JCC, everyone is family regardless of religious affiliation.


We have referenced The Pew Research Center study Jewish Americans in 2020 in prior editions and will likely continue to cite this fascinating study as it reveals how the greater Jewish community is evolving in America.  There is a lot to explore, but one takeaway is that American Jews are connecting through cultural opportunities more than ever before. According to the study:


  • 7 in 10 U.S. Jews say they “often or “sometimes” cook or eat Jewish foods
  • 6 in 10 share Jewish culture/holidays with non-Jewish friends
  • 57% visit historical Jewish sites when they travel
  • More than 4 in 10 watch television with Jewish/Israeli themes, read Jewish news, or listen to Jewish/Israeli music
  • 1 in 4 attend Jewish Film Festivals or seek out Jewish films
  • 17% participate in online conversations about Judaism or being Jewish

Prior to COVID, food was a central part of nearly all Jewish functions.  It is one of the more challenging components to add back due to safety concerns. We are looking forward to relaunching senior programming and lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the JCC starting the week of August 31. Our senior club members had been eager to get vaccinated, so our Medical Advisory Team feels safe inviting them back to the building after Summer Camp ends. For seniors who would like to attend the programs but not unmask to eat, we will be providing a grab-n-go meal option to eat at home.  If you are 60+, please contact Cheryl Yablon for more information about joining the senior club and/or attending these programs at We are thankful for financial support from the COVID Relief Initiative of the Jewish Community Foundation which will cover the additional safety and to-go costs for the first six months.

Jewish Together and Virtual JCC continue to offer numerous programs for holidays, Jewish culture, Israel engagement, current events, and more. Jewish Council for Public Affairs expanded their pre-pandemic offerings of webinars and recordings with high-level speakers, experts, and thought leaders on a range of issues of concern.  Kol Central PA provided ongoing news, views, and schmooze under Ed Beck and transitioned to the Federation in May. Community Review didn’t miss a single edition and even expanded to an online portal. Community members had opportunities to enjoy cooking lessons with renowned chef Michael Solomonov, or ask their favorite authors questions in virtual discussions through Women’s Philanthropy of JFNA, and synagogue book clubs.

The Edward S. Finkelstein Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival provided two years of virtual films, water cooler discussions, and related programming. My personal favorite was the beautiful and touching film Here We Are, an Israeli film which told the story of a special relationship between father and son.  Kol HaNeshama has also adapted by recording several of their songs to view online and through community programming like the recent Race Unity Day with the InterReligious Forum.  Our Artist in Residency program has been offered in hybrid format allowing participants to attend in-person safely or online from home.

This is just a sampling of the available Jewish cultural opportunities that we could access as a community over the past year-plus.  It has been wonderful continually participating in these communal experiences with you as we enrich ourselves. I look forward to seeing you at future online and/or in-person programming. 

I hope you are doing well. Feel free to reach out to me at or 717-236-9555 x3104.