Marc Swatez - A Thank You to the Community

Thank you all for accepting me into your community as your new Federation CEO over these past few months. Welcoming strangers, hachnasat orchim, is a Jewish value with an origin story dating back to Abraham and Sarah inviting people into their tent and then running to feed and care for them. Just like our foreparents, you not only opened your gates, but you then went out of your way to extend your hospitality and ensure that I have everything I could ever need to get settled.  Taking on this new mantle is an awesome responsibility and privilege, but after such a warm welcome, I am committed to doing everything I can to ensure that the Indianapolis Jewish community will continue to flourish.
The list of personal thank yous that I could offer would likely extend almost as long as the donor list in the back of this issue! But I would be remiss if I did not first thank Greg Mauer, Barry Wormser and the entire Search Committee for making that process so enjoyable. Thanks also to Leslie Rubin, officers, and Board of the Federation for opening your doors and sharing your stories with me. The amazing and dedicated JFGI staff and the professional leadership across this community have welcomed me into your ranks so graciously and shown so much patience as I stumble my way around that I can only hope to earn the trust you have already exhibited. Finally, I get to be the first (but far from the last) person to thank Gigi Marks Felsher and Katy Cantor for their selfless leadership that has strengthened our entire community and made my transition so smooth.
I truly wish that my first column could simply be a message of gratitude, but events have occurred since my arrival that I am compelled to mention. Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas also recently welcomed a stranger into their home. After presenting himself as a homeless man, he was given a cup of tea and left alone to stay warm as the congregation began Shabbat services.  We all know what happened next. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker credits the Jewish community security training he received as providing him with the knowledge and skills that ultimately led to the hostages escaping with no shots being fired.
There are many lessons to be learned from this tragic incident. One is in addition to all the historic roles that Jewish Federations play in a community (resource and leadership development, support for Jews overseas and in Israel, Jewish engagement, etc.), we must now include security and security training to that list.  Like so many other minority communities, we have learned that we must take care of ourselves. The Jewish Federation and our partners provide critical services to those most vulnerable in our Indianapolis community. One unfortunate lesson of Colleyville is that you never know when that vulnerable person might be you.


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