Inaugural Message - John Stein
I want to particularly thank Bret Caller for all that he has accomplished over these past three years as the President of our foundation. He has been an inspirational leader whose love of Judaism, passion for philanthropy, and optimistic vision of the future has inspired both our board and the broader community. Under his leadership, we have made tremendous progress in better understanding who we serve in Cincinnati, and we have continued to expand our funding to benefit more of our community. He has been both a friend and a mentor for me, and I look forward to working with him as we go forward.
My family’s roots in Cincinnati go back over 150 years. My parents and grandparents were all deeply involved in our community organizations. I grew up in Amberley, attending JCC pre-school, Yavneh (Rockwern), Wise Temple, Camp Livingston, and NFTY teen programs. Through these experiences, I came to believe strongly that Judaism is a great operating system for modern life. Learning and engaging with Jewish tradition and history, while living in community and relationship with other Jews, and working with them to create a relevant and meaningful Jewish future improves all of our lives and the world at large.
When I moved back to Cincinnati some 25 years ago, the community was quite different than the one I left as a teenager. Most of the same institutions were here, but they had all evolved and changed to meet new challenges and needs. Broader geographic spread, wider diversity of religious practice, changing composition of families, and changing lifestyles all required continual changes in Jewish life and institutions. Fortunately, our leaders recognized this, and our institutions adapted. We built new schools, a new JCC, formed new congregations and social service programs, and left behind some good programs and institutions whose time had passed.
The result has been a community which continues to welcome and include new members and provide support for a wide range of needs, while honoring our traditions. My own family represents some of the changes; my wife Jen was raised Catholic in New Jersey, my niece was adopted from China, but both have felt welcomed and supported by the warmth and strength of this community. Diversity can be one of our great strengths, and I hope the Jewish Foundation can continue to support and welcome a wide range of Jews into the process of creating our community.
While we can all be proud of what has been accomplished so far, much work remains to be done. New challenges, like the COVID pandemic, have emerged; and old challenges, like virulent Antisemitism, have reemerged. Meanwhile, our community continues to change and evolve. Cincinnati has been welcoming new members and building on its strengths for nearly 200 years, while always addressing the challenges of the day. As we look to the future, we are fortunate to have a community blessed with talented professionals, committed and generous lay leaders, strong institutions, creative individuals, and substantial financial resources.