On June 8, the Jewish community of Rhode Island gathered in the newly renovated Victor and Gussie Baxt Social Hall at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center for the sixth annual meeting of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.
The beautiful new space was a fitting venue in which to celebrate six years of the Alliance and honor outgoing President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Savit, who has led the Alliance through its infancy and the renovations to its Dwares JCC, in Providence.
The meeting began with cantorial soloist Dayna Bailen, coordinator of (401)j, leading the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hatikvah.”
Rabbi Rachel Zerin, of Providence’s Temple Emanu-El, gave the d’var Torah. In her commentary on the building of a mishkan, or tabernable, she spoke about the importance of building a community where diverse groups can gather and work together. She commended Rhode Island for doing so.
Gloria Feibish presented the Dr. Harry and Esther Elkin Memorial Award to Penina Satlow. Each year, the award is presented to a graduating high school senior who demonstrates a love for, and commitment to, Israel. Satlow, who attended Classical High School, in Providence, was active in the Harry Elkin Midrasha, in Providence, the HaZamir youth choir and youth groups throughout the state. In the summer of 2016, she was a Bronfman Fellow. Her poem was a winner in this year’s El Al teen contest.
Satlow is planning to spend a year in Jerusalem before attending Brown University in the fall of 2018.
Feibish is a past president of the former Bureau of Jewish Education, one of the three organizations that formed the Alliance (the two others were the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation of Rhode Island).
Bob Landau, vice chair of governance, introduced the newly elected officers and board members for the Alliance, the Jewish Federation Foundation and Alliance Reality Inc. Savit installed them all, and commented: “What a privilege it is to install this board.”
Mitzi Berkelhammer, newly installed for her second year as chair of the Alliance, began her report by thanking everyone who went before her and served as role models. She announced that the annual campaign had raised “close to $3 million so far.”
“With your help, we are able to enrich the quality of life for Jews in Rhode Island and around the world,” she said.
She went on to talk about the past year at the Alliance, noting that “This has been a year of ups and downs throughout the world.” She mentioned the bomb scare at the Dwares JCC, and thanked the police, as well as the Muslim community, which quickly organized a vigil in Providence.
“The level of community support was impressive,” Berkelhammer said. She said there will be a special campaign in the fall to help groups with security needs.
Of Savit, Berkelhammer said, “You have left an indelible mark, which we will all remember. We can only wish you the best.”
Richard Licht, first chairman of the Alliance, paid tribute to Savit and his years at the Alliance, mentioning accomplishments such as the Living on the Edge Initiative, the Holocaust Memorial in downtown Providence and the renovated JCC.
“As the first chair of the Alliance, I witnessed firsthand how he arrived at this nascent organization and how his ‘think big, act big’ attitude encouraged others to find a way to get there with him,” Licht said. “It was Jeffrey’s clear vision, strong work ethic and steadfast focus that assured the success.”
Savit offered a retrospective of his six years heading the Alliance, and thanked everyone who made his success possible. He ended by saying, “Regrets … I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention. I did what … [we] had to do and saw it through without exemption.
“I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for allowing me to do so the Alliance way, so that together, we could navigate our community’s ship out of dry dock and into the majestic seas.”
You can read Licht’s and Savit’s statements on page 7.
FRAN OSTENDORF is the editor of The Jewish Voice.