The following was written as a response to a recent article in Tablet about the downsizing of Youngstown, Ohio’s, Jewish community. The author of the response,Â Andy Lipkin, is the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation executive vice president and was one of the people quoted in the original article. â€” ed.
A recent Tablet article painted a bleak picture for the future of our Jewish community. While itâ€™s true the Jewish population of the Mahoning and Shenango valleys is smaller than years past, and itâ€™s also true that brings challenges, it doesnâ€™t mean we wonâ€™t survive but, in fact, are thriving! With challenges come opportunities, and the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation and its agencies are rising to meet the challenges and embrace the opportunities. No Jewish community in America, of our size, offers as much as we do. Federation has something for every stage of life, from early learning to retirement. Our services rival those of much larger communities, and we continue to grow our offerings.
Heritage Manor Rehabilitation & Retirement Community attained a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and has the only Veteranâ€™s Administration agreement in our county, providing excellent care for those who need it most. It offers full service elderly care, including long-term care, respite care, adult day services, outpatient therapy, and rehabilitation.
Levy Gardens Assisted Living facility earned a 91.3 rating on the Ohio Department of Agingâ€™s resident-satisfaction survey, making it one of the top-four facilities in the county. Tenants receive on-site support for daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, and medication management, while maintaining their independence.
Jewish Family Services, as well as offering diverse programs and services including guardianships, counseling, and group housing for developmentally disabled individuals, is providing nearly 1,000 meals to members of the community each month through its Meals on Wheels program. For that program, they partner with the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities for help with the packing and delivery.
The Jewish Community Center is partnering with many organizations to make an impact in the Jewish and broader community. Working with the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, they brought after-school programming, consisting of both fitness and Israeli culture, as well as opportunities to learn tennis and attend Camp JCC to six Youngstown city schools last year. The program is growing to include 13 schools this year. The center also operates and manages the former Logan Swim and Tennis Club, which expanded the offerings of the JCC to include an outdoor pool. The SwimSafe 500 program provided over 2,500 free swim safety lessons to children throughout the region and trained individuals to be lifeguards for Youngstownâ€™s northside pool. JCC saw a 25-percent increase in membership when they lowered rates, added programming and offered members a 25-percent discount on those programs.
The Jewish Community Relations Council provides Holocaust education to members of the community through exhibits and programs in schools and community organizations, ensuring it wonâ€™t be forgotten. JCRC also works to ensure continued support for a strong U.S./Israel relationship. It recently led the first-ever multi-denominational Christian pastors mission to Israel and led a mission in 2017 with the Youngstown Business Incubator and Youngstown State University that continues to reap tremendous dividends.
In recent years, federation staff and board took on the arduous task of creating a strategic plan that will guide efforts for years to come. This plan places the federation squarely as the primary convener for the regional Jewish community. Itâ€™s imperative to engage with the local Jewish community and the general community, and the federation is doing so through cultural and Jewish educational programming, a commitment to tikkun olam, and health-and-wellness initiatives. To implement these strategies, excellence in governance and operations is necessary.
Strength and continuity come not just from the number of Jews in the community, but also from the quality, accessibility, and diversity of Jewish life that can be enhanced through intentional and strong partnerships with the general community. And, through these partnerships, the federation is working on initiatives with the Youngstown Business Incubator and other organizations that will attract more Jews and jobs to the region. There is a strong sense of Jewish coherence, loyalty, and unity in our community, a community that, though smaller than it once was, is thriving.
Andy Lipkin is the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation executive vice president