Alliance returns to in-person annual meeting

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After two years of virtual meetings, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island gathered in person at the Dwares Jewish Community Center on June 16 for its 11th annual meeting. Everyone was ready to hear a recap of the year, welcome new board chair Harris Chorney and celebrate community award winners.

More than 80 people listened as James Pious, outgoing board chair, welcomed the group to the meeting, held in the Baxt Social Hall. Though the meeting was recorded for later viewing, it was one of the first programs in two years that was not livestreamed for viewing at home, a sign of how the community is moving to a post-pandemic world.

The evening began with a powerful video about the Alliance that has been “making a difference together” for 75 years.

Rabbi Preston Neimeiser, who has served as assistant rabbi in the Temple Beth-El community for close to a year, offered a D’var Torah that discussed how the Alliance has made a difference to him, his family and the community.

“Much of the foundational work has been done,” he said. “Our spiritual work remains unfinished. You must continue to do the work … to keep the light lit.”

He admonished the audience to “show up” to keep the lights burning brightly.

One of the highlights of these annual meetings is the announcement of the leadership awards, and this meeting did not disappoint.

The Reisman Leadership Development Award, established to encourage people to become future leaders, went to Sara Miller-Paul, vice chair of communications for the Alliance.

Said Rabbi Barry Dolinger, who presented the award: “At every meeting, she is the most prepared person in the room. When she is speaking, others are listening.”

Miller-Paul, who continues as vice chair of communications beyond her three-year term, said, “I’m appreciative of all the support that comes with the recognition.”

The Norman D. and Flo Tilles Community Relations Council Award, presented to emerging leaders on the Community Relations Council (CRC), went to Robert Landau, a longtime board volunteer who has most recently been an active member of the CRC.

Landau characterized the CRC as “a great group. They are smart and engaged. I am surprised and humbled.”

Presenter Cara Mitnick, chair of the CRC, characterized Landau as “even tempered. A thoughtful voice who always asks a good question.”

The Joseph W. Ress Community Service Award was presented to David Bazarsky. The Ress Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exemplary leadership at the Alliance, at local or national Jewish agencies and in the general Rhode Island community. And the surprise guest presenter for this award was Doris Feinberg, a longtime Alliance and community volunteer who returned from her home in Mexico to honor Bazarsky.

“David, you have assumed the mantle of social responsibility since early in your adult life,” said Feinberg. She mentioned all the organizations impacted by Bazarsky’s leadership including the Jewish Federation of RI (now the Alliance), Temple Shalom and Congregation Jeshuat Israel as well as Newport Preservation Society, Salve Regina University, Portsmouth Abbey School, Newport Hospital and others.

“David and Carol have set an example for their adult children, including Jason who now serves on the Alliance board,” she said.

In expressing his appreciation for the award, Bazarsky acknowledged the Ress family and all that Joe Ress did for the community.

In his final address to the Alliance members, Pious recognized those who made his three-year term run so smoothly and acknowledged the effects of the pandemic on his time as chair.

“There were many times when I felt like a ‘Virtual Chair,’ with so many meetings and programs handled through Zoom,” he said.

“But with challenges come opportunities – and we can all take pride in how the Alliance operated through the pandemic.

“During this time, we have raised $270,000 for our COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund,  $260,000 for Ukraine Relief and $125,000 for PJ Library.”  You can read Pious’ remarks here.

In paying tribute to Pious, former chair Sharon Gaines said, “The entire Jewish community is better for having known you.”

William Kreiger offered the nominating committee’s report and supervised a voice vote to elect the leadership. Rabbi Ethan Adler, rabbi of Congregation Beth David in Narragansett, served as installing officer for the three boards: the Jewish Federation Foundation, Alliance Realty, Inc. and the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.

Adler said, “Leadership demands devotion. Good leadership is never automatic.”

Of Chorney, he said, “I’ve learned to appreciate his wisdom, devotion and loyalty and, most important, his humility.”

Chorney told the audience that he believes in the mission and vision of the Alliance. He thanked the audience for attending the meeting, and said “that fact that you are here means you care.”

“We are here for the good,” he concluded.

Adam Greenman’s remarks offered a snapshot of where the community has been and where it is going, including specifics on gains made and what’s to come.

“The last three years have fortified our already solid foundation. Today we are a stronger, more vibrant organization and a stronger, more vibrant community,” he said.

“Tonight was for looking back and celebrating. But it’s also about Kadima, about moving forward. It’s about dreaming about a future where our Jewish community is strong, vibrant and thriving. As I complete my fifth year as CEO of the Alliance, I could not be more proud of all we have done together, and I could not be more excited for what comes next.”

To read all of Greenman’s remarks, click here

To watch a video of the annual meeting, go to: jewishallianceri.org/11th-annual-meeting/

FRAN OSTENDORF (fostendorf@jewishallianceri.org) is the editor of Jewish Rhode Island.