The High Holidays are a time for reflection and atonement, seemingly crafted by the sages as a cosmic stop sign, compelling us to pace ourselves, to prioritize, and to take inventory of our daily lives as well as of what lies within us.
Here at the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, the end of summer also signals the end of our fiscal year and of our 2016 Heart of Jewish New Mexico Campaign. On a personal note, in August, my wife, Taina, and I marked our one-year anniversary as New Mexico residents, as well as my first full year as your Federation director. By any measure, this year has been a remarkable one. Personally, it has been both a joy and a significant challenge to become part of this family, to absorb this community’s history and character, to experience its warmth, to learn how this community celebrates, pulls together in times of crisis, and yes, to learn how at times our opinions can diverge. It is an education that is and always will be ongoing.
Ultimately, any Jewish Federation is only as strong as the community in which it sits. By all indications, then, the New Mexico Jewish community is thriving. The recently completed 2016 Heart of Jewish New Mexico Campaign raised roughly $540,000 in undesignated gifts—beating our budgeted goal—much of which was distributed via our annual allocations to more organizations than ever before. This number does not include the additional $109,000 raised in designated gifts made through the Federation to Jewish organizations across the state and around the world. These numbers should make every Jewish New Mexican proud, and we should all feel encouraged that the state of Jewish community in New Mexico is so strong.
As our Federation has worked to reimagine itself, we have become a lifeline for communities like Las Vegas and Roswell to the broader statewide family, helping them preserve the local Jewish experience and working to ensure the future of these Jewish enclaves. At the same time, we have listened and responded to the Jewish community of Santa Fe, supporting organizations and projects that reinforce an already thriving Jewish presence there. We have established or rekindled key relationships with organizations throughout the country, including Israel Bonds, Rabbis Without Borders, World ORT, and more, that are linking New Mexico’s roughly 25,000 Jews with the nationwide Jewish community and Israel. Our Federation is also making a truly global impact as the only Jewish organization in North America approved to steward Anusim through the process of obtaining Spanish citizenship.
Much work remains to be done, however, if we are to accomplish our long-term mission of sustaining Jewish life in New Mexico for generations to come. This includes continuing to strengthen our partnerships with congregations and Jewish organizations throughout the state. We must also continue to create innovative programs such as the Kosher Cabrito and the New Mexico-Israel Economic Forum, which help to engage the Jewish and broader communities. We must do more for the elderly and indigent, as well as to keep young Jewish families and individuals in New Mexico. We must also do more to engage Southern New Mexico’s Jewish population.
All too often, I hear community members lament New Mexico as a liability. I hear people reference the state’s economic challenges, geographic isolation, and what some perceive as limited professional opportunities as a reason why Jewish community is sometimes so challenging to sustain here. On the contrary, I am convinced that New Mexico is a tremendous asset. Every corner of this state is painted with a natural beauty that is arguably unmatched anywhere else on earth. Along with that beauty indeed exists opportunity for students, artists, professionals, and free spirits who are willing live proactively in an uncommonly inspiring setting. As Jews, we all harbor different concepts of what or who the higher power is, but New Mexico is undoubtedly a place where, regardless of how that power is perceived, one can feel close to G-d.
So, as we move into the new year, I challenge the community to focus on what makes New Mexico so special, as well as the cultural and natural assets that make our community unlike any other. I challenge you to give thanks for what we have, and to channel that gratitude into pride, enthusiasm, and support for our uniquely New Mexican Jewish community. L’shanah tovah, and may each of you be inscribed this year in the Book of Life.
Jewish Federation of New Mexico