From Our CEO
Ode to the Mini-Hot Dog
May 19th, 2023

I must confess a weakness for kosher mini-hot dogs. And these last few weeks, I've had more than my fair share.

Last Monday, they were at an event for The Jewish Board, a longtime UJA partner and one of the leading providers of mental health services in New York.

Then Tuesday, they were at an event for Columbia Barnard Hillel, one of the 11 Hillels in our UJA network.

And Wednesday, they were at an event celebrating UJA’s Westchester community.

All three of last week’s events happened to have had the same kosher caterer. Which explains why one of the waiters good-naturedly came over to me at the Westchester event and asked, “Haven’t I seen you three evenings in a row this week?"

I answered, "Yes!"

He responded with a smile: “Get a life, man!”

He didn’t even know about the six other UJA and nonprofit partner events I attended last week and this....

The truth is, this is my life. And I feel very blessed — more than three years after the pandemic started — to finally be able to return to our pre-Covid event schedule.

I can’t help but appreciate what a pleasure it is to simply gather regularly back in person. In March 2020, that very same Westchester event was the first one we canceled because of Covid. The already-prepared food was repackaged into individual meals and delivered to Jewish families in Westchester, who were among the first to be living under quarantine. Little did we know then, it would be a long while till we would meet again.

Now that we’re fully back, this spring season alone, UJA will be hosting more than 50 in-person events — ranging from Shabbat dinners to Jewish learning sessions to concerts — attended by tens of thousands of people across our community. There are events by professional affiliation (from women in law to banking and finance, from technology to hospitality); by identity (from Sephardic to UJAPride); by geography (from Staten Island to Long Island, and everywhere in between); and by age cohort and stage of life (from talks about parenting to dodgeball). There are also opportunities to learn about pressing issues with broad relevance from prominent thought leaders. I invite you to check out our upcoming events here.

These gatherings provide a platform to educate a wide audience about the needs and challenges all around us. To inspire people who we may not otherwise reach to get more involved in our work, and to raise the essential funds that enable all that we do. But importantly, these events also model what it means to be a connected community, bound together by the core Jewish value of tzedakah, which doesn’t mean charity — but rather justice. We are each obliged to give to the best of our ability. And key to UJA, our individual generosity is exponentially compounded when we give together.

Over the next month, I look forward to attending lots of events, telling UJA’s story, hearing about our partners’ impact, and gladly seeing old friends and making new ones (including my now best friend waiter!).

If you’re there with me, grab a mini-hot dog. And please be sure to say hello.     

Shabbat shalom