After years of anticipation and planning, it’s hard to believe that our centennial year is drawing to a close. We knew this would be a momentous opportunity to reflect on UJA-Federation’s extraordinary history and, even more importantly, turn our eyes to the future and launch our second century of impact.

It was all that — and more.

In 2017, we launched three groundbreaking centennial initiatives focused on fighting poverty in our community, transforming Jewish day camp for a new generation, and ensuring Jerusalem’s future as a vibrant and thriving city. We completed the most successful annual fundraising campaign in our 100-year history. We hosted numerous celebratory, sold-out events, including our leadership launch at Jazz at Lincoln Center, the centennial Bash – attended by 1,000 people (half under the age of 40), and our unforgettable 350-person mission to Israel. Our history was on display at an American Jewish Historical Society exhibit, and we were featured in WNET’s Treasures of New York series. And just last month, 100 people representing Team UJA ran the TCS New York City Marathon.

We brought important innovation to the work we enable each day. Just a few examples: Working hand in hand with our nonprofit partners, we introduced digital choice food pantries. Now instead of waiting in long lines to receive a standard bag of food, families can choose for themselves the food that best meets their needs, preserving their dignity and significantly reducing waste and inefficiency. We launched Time for Good, our volunteer platform, and introduced thousands of volunteers to the work of our local partners. And we piloted online grant allocations, broadly expanding our reach in the community by giving everyone the opportunity to weigh in on the question: “How do you want to shape your Jewish New York?”

We also greatly expanded program services to an evolving and diverse Jewish community from Brooklyn to Belarus, and rallied to help those devastated by the hurricanes, from Texas to the Caribbean. And in a year marked by intense political divisiveness, we continued to convene people from across the spectrum of our community to address common challenges and promote respect, tolerance, and understanding.

Now, as 2017 comes to a close, we’re facing ever-increasing uncertainty and pressing questions that demand our community’s focus in the years ahead:

  • How do we ensure that our children and grandchildren stay connected to our rich and vibrant Jewish tradition?
  • With government funding reduced, how do we strengthen the ability of our health and human service partners to meet the needs of the most vulnerable New Yorkers?
  • How do we make certain that the 45,000 increasingly aging and frail Holocaust survivors in the New York area – 40% of whom live in poverty – get the care they need?
  • How do we bridge the growing divides between Israel and large segments of American Jewry, and the divisions within our own local community?

There are no easy answers to these questions. Some reflect newer concerns, others we’ve grappled with for some time. But if the history of UJA-Federation over these past 100 years has taught us anything, it’s that solutions are possible, and we can help drive them. Our founders in 1917 – with World War I raging and millions of destitute immigrants on our shores – certainly proved so. Their courage, resilience, and innovative spirit in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges helped shape our city and global Jewish community for 100 years.

Now it’s up to us to begin shaping the next 100.

Shabbat shalom, and best wishes for a healthy and happy 2018!