Giving Voice and Connection

Jewish Youth Orchestra

Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys celebrates its 30th anniversary

    Contiguous to the third largest Jewish population in the world, there is an area stretching from Glendale to Rancho Cucamonga, west to east, and south to Whittier, about the same square mileage as Israel. Within this swath of land, there are forty-eight cities and between 30,000 and 45,000 Jewish people. For the past 30 years, the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys has given voice to all of them. Now it is time for a yearlong celebration of the Jewish Federation’s presence, advocacy, and programming.
    After breaking away from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles to give people in those forty-eight cities a more local experience, the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys began offering programming that in other areas is provided by multiple agencies. What had once been a regional office of a larger entity, this new organization established itself “with leaders who had the forethought and commitment to put it on the trajectory it has been going in for the past 30 years,” according to Jason Moss, executive director of the Jewish Federation, which is headquartered in Monrovia.
    Described on its website as “the starting point and the support system for your local Jewish journey” and “your resource for services and opportunities that offers meaningful engagement experiences with people and programs in our area,” the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys’ mission is “to build community by strengthening and enhancing Jewish life.” Over the past thirty years, it has offered programs such as Festival in the Park, to celebrate the Jewish community; the Jewish Book Festival, which will be celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year; a breakfast with school superintendents at the beginning of the school year; a cultural arts program, with plays, artists, and cooking demonstrations; the PJ Library, bringing Jewish books to children; a security network; and the “Every Person Has a Name” program, in which individuals read the names of people who perished in the Holocaust to name just a few.

Community Israel Trip in 2012

     Connection and advocacy are a big part of the Jewish Federation’s work. As Julie Solberg, in her second year as president of the Jewish Federation, said, “I love the fact that Jason has stepped up to look at community needs. To make the general population aware of antisemitism, he worked with fourteen communities we represent to make a resolution about it. He has worked with all of the communities in the region to raise awareness of problems for all targeted groups.”
    According to Moss, “We serve all Jews in the area who are interested in connecting. We can’t be all things to all people, but we’re trying to give people a way to fit in and feel appreciated in whatever way they choose to engage. It makes individuals and the community stronger.”

Every Person Has a Name

    He added that programs have expanded “tremendously over 30 years as people found more ways to connect.” With a small staff and a modest budget, the Jewish Federation tries to “reach as many people as possible and continue to expand what we offer.”
    Solberg said that the biggest challenge is “making the community aware of all that we do.” She likes to see “people come to relate to Judaism.”
    The 30th anniversary celebration will include programs throughout the year, including a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Jewish Book Festival; a presentation by the Ladies of Laughter: Jewish Women of Comedy Festival; Ladies of Laughter: Jewish Women of Comedy Festival; and a cultural arts program presentation of Fiddler on the Roof. The culmination will be a brunch in June to honor past presidents, many of whom are still in the area, and to show how the Jewish Federation got to be what it is.
    As Moss said, “We want to mark the occasion with people who helped to guide us and do it in a way that includes as many people as possible. Instead of having an evening gala, we want it to be something that more people can afford and are able to attend.”
    Solberg concluded, “It is exciting that we’ve been around for that long. I hope we continue to grow and be around in another 30 years giving our community its connection to Judaism.” 

ILENE SCHNEIDER is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.


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