Our good friend and great communal leader, John Ruskay, was honored by the New York UJA-Federation last week. His entire address to his friends and communal leaders can be found in e-jewishphilanthropy.com and portions were reprinted in Jerry Silverman's tribute in a JFNA Leadership Briefing. As one would expect of John, it was a speech both brilliant and inspirational; it deserves to be read in its entirety. John spoke of his goals and the achievements and challenges during his ten years and into the future. Here are portions of that speech that focused on all of us and all of our communities:
"Here at UJA-Federation, I am able to bring these lifelong passions together: to nurture and encourage participation in inspired Jewish communities so larger numbers can experience the ability of Jewish life to sanctify life and to invest life with meaning and purpose. And to extend care to all in need: the isolated elderly in Brooklyn and the former Soviet Union; the new immigrant in Israel; the recently unemployed. To care for both the Jewish community and the entire community.
But above all, we will continue to hold high the banner of Jewish communal collective responsibility. In a culture too often defined by rampant individualism, including in philanthropy, we affirm that we are indeed part of a people and community that promotes the axiomatic value of our responsibility for one another, of the shared and mutual responsibility of each and every member of the house of Israel. We do this not only because it is the core foundation on which the work of Federation rests. We do this because it is a core principle on which the entire enterprise of the Jewish people rests. Our reciprocal responsibility is not a gimmick, it is not a technique. It is who and what we are about.
We will do so building on the accomplishments and learnings of the past decade and the progress we have made to create communities that beckon young and old not on the basis of guilt or obligation but on the basis of what they offer; modeling care for all both within our community and beyond; strengthening the commitment to areyvut – responsibility – for the whole community, our city, and our people. As we do this, we will improve the likelihood of a strong and secure Jewish future and model for our own people and all of America what it means to live lives of sacred responsibility. As we do this, we can be, yet again, or l’goyim – a light unto the nations."
John was speaking to each of us from his heart. For his message we owe him the deepest gratitude; for his work and his Federation even more so. His speech was a Chanukah gift to all of us.