Kindness, generosity, and caring: Celebrating our past in pursuit of our future

Traditionally, Rosh Hashanah is viewed as the birthday of the world. We find ourselves now, in the days beforehand, at the culmination of the month of Elul, a time when we, both individually and collectively, take account of the year that has passed and look ahead, celebrating the opportunity that this annual cycle affords us to rededicate ourselves to our highest purpose, seeing the future with a renewed and refreshed perspective.

This new year holds special significance for our Jewish community, as 5780 will be the final year that Stuart Mellan will serve as the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. As we reflect not only on the past year, but the past 24 years of Stu’s tenure, we are filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everything his leadership has enabled our community to accomplish.

In his time at the head of the Federation, Stu has led our community through many seasons, acting as a steadfast, good-natured, and forward-thinking steward with a commitment to growing and sustaining Jewish life in our region. Stu has left an indelible mark on Jewish Southern Arizona, and our community as a whole; and many individuals within it have been made better because of him.

As Stu’s era as the Federation president and CEO comes to a close, he has joyfully approached the critical task of helping us to reshape the landscape of Jewish life for generations to come, just as the final days of the Jewish year re-define our personal aspirations for the next.

Along with other key community leaders, Stu has been one of the driving forces behind our “2020 & Beyond: Reimagining Jewish Life in Southern Arizona” community planning and visioning process.

The goals of this process are to understand the strengths and challenges that face our Jewish community and create a vision and action plan that meets the needs identified now and for the future. “2020 & Beyond” is a central element of a large-scale, multifaceted mobilization happening among our community leadership around strategic collaboration.

On Sunday, Sept. 22, key stakeholder meetings were held at the Tucson Jewish Community Center and Hacienda del Sol to further this community planning process. Our community leadership, with the help of experienced professionals at the Rosov Consulting Group, are continuing to collect input that will be used to create a market research survey that will be distributed throughout our region so that all individuals within our community — even those at the farthest periphery — can make their voices heard.

The results of this survey will allow us to make data-informed decisions to shape the future of Jewish life in Southern Arizona. Behind our desire to gather input and involvement from everyone is a commitment to dramatically expand the reach of our engagement endeavors.

It’s a testament to Stu’s visionary leadership that a decade after he championed the engagement agenda in our community, we recognize the critical need to redouble our efforts and enhance our approaches to broaden and deepen our community’s involvement. Together, we aspire to continue to create joint community endeavors that increase the value and appeal of our substantive Jewish educational and experiential offerings.

Throughout our journey as a people we have pursued a path of righteousness. Kindness, generosity, and caring have been its bricks — leaders like Stu and countless volunteers have illuminated our way and lovingly prodded us forward.

On this journey we have carried the obligation of hakarat hatov — the duty to acknowledge kindness received from another. It requires not merely remembering and saying “thank you,” but actually taking time to recognize the benefits we have received from others.

Now seems as good an opportunity as any for me to not only acknowledge and thank Stu for the kindness he has shown me and so many others in our community — but also to take time to recognize the enormity of the gains we all enjoy as the fruits of his labor. A man who prizes people and relationships above all, Stu is always the first to humbly credit those whose generosity, virtue, and commitment have propelled, carefully guided, and sustained our progress.

As we look ahead in a deliberate, strategic, and thoughtful way, we enjoy the achievements made by the many who have joined us on this journey, build upon our successes, and prepare for new opportunities for growth in the seasons to come.

L’Shana Tova Tikatevu. May you be inscribed for a wonderful, meaningful, healthy, and sweet new year.

Graham Hoffman is the president and CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona.