Remarks by New Board Chair Arthur Goldberg at the 2018 Annual Meeting

Delivered at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County Annual Meeting, “A Year to Celebrate. A Future to Imagine,” on April 24, 2018.

Thank you very much. As I stand here tonight with you, the first feeling I have is humbled. I know that sounds trite, but it's the most honest thing I could say. I have to explain. I did not seek this position. I did not ask for it, not because I didn't want it… I never even thought about that, but because I in no way felt entitled to it.

First, we're snowbirds. We spend our warm weather months in New York with our children and grandchildren. And I must say, this summer we're particularly anxious to be in New York because our granddaughter just got engaged, and we wanted to be there for the celebrations and the planning. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. Probably because I like to hear myself say it.

Secondly, while I was actively engaged for a number of years at Addison Reserve’s Federation Committee, including chairing it for a couple of years, I had not been involved in the government of Federation itself for that long of period of time.

I started getting active when Ellen Sarnoff was a chair. Ellen lived, ate, and breathed federation. She was everywhere, and she was there at a very difficult time in our federation's history.

Ellen was followed by Al Gortz. Al Gortz is a good friend, a successful and, in my view, brilliant lawyer. But, in addition, Al was intimately involved in our Federation before it was even a Federation, while it was still part of Palm Beach. His knowledge of our history and all of the nuances of that are absolutely indispensable, and will continue to be.

Al was followed by our lady of the evening, our good friend, Anne Jacobson. We said it all about Anne. What can I say, except she's been called, quite validly, the face of the Federation. Norm and Annie are living legends in this community and deservedly so. They have done so much over the years with their financial resources, their work ethic, and their charisma

So you may ask, "Where am I in this grouping?" But being asked, we still had to make a decision. “Do we want this?” And when I say, "We," it's because Hedy and I are very fortunate. We're high school sweethearts. We're soulmates. We're each other's best friends, and we make all of our decisions jointly. Full disclosure, at least we make all of my decisions jointly.

So we asked friends and some family what they thought. Some answered, "Well, what do you want to do this for at this stage of your life?" Others said, "I think it's terrific that you're willing to devote yourself to such a wonderful cause."

And then I thought about the people I've worked with at Federation, both lay people and professional. These are bright, engaging people. And while I think all of us in this room get a good feeling by volunteering our services for a worthy cause, I have genuinely enjoyed the relationships I have made from Federation. In short, I've had fun doing the work with Federation.

I also thought about being here some years ago when Wes Finch was being honored for his role in the development of Sinai Residences. I remember Wes ended his speech by saying, "My father always told me to leave a footprint. And Sinai Residences is my footprint to this community."

That resonated with me. It made me think of my own father. When I was a little kid, probably about 10 years old, we moved from a walkup in Borough Park, Brooklyn, to a small row-house in Flushing, Queens, and I remember saying, "We must be rich."

One problem with the neighborhood… the nearest shul was over two miles away. That was not acceptable to my father, so he and a few other men began a shul. The first services were in my new home, and I remember we used to leave the side door open on Saturday mornings so the men could open the side door, which led directly to the staircase, up to the attic. This way, the house stayed clean, so my mother was satisfied, and the men went straight up to shul. The temple began to grow. They leased a storefront. It grew some more and finally reached a point where they could buy a piece of land and build a small, but beautiful, temple.

That temple was located on a street called Utopia Parkway so, naturally enough, they named it Utopia Jewish Center. My father, from that point on, was very often referred to as Mr. Utopia. And I remember, with a feeling of great pride, as a young man, being introduced to somebody in the neighborhood, and them saying, "This is Irving Goldberg's son." So my father left a footprint.

And, then, of all the remarks we heard about the Chair position, the coup de grace came from Rabbi Josh Broide. Some time ago, he put his arm around me and said, "Boy, are you lucky to become Chair of this Federation at this time in our history."

Let's talk about that just for a moment. You have heard tonight, and you all knew it anyway, how far our Federation has come in the last few years, in the last five years, particularly. We have supported so many programs and services that have helped those in need in our community. That have helped Jews worldwide and, of course, in our beloved Israel. We have every right to be very proud of our Federation, but we cannot rest on those laurels. We have serious challenges to meet, and we have to devote ourselves to them, and we have to make the right decisions, and we have to bring ourselves to bear on a continuing basis.

Some of those challenges relate to the demographics of our community here in south Florida. Some of them, on the other hand, relate for all of American Jewry. But they are all challenges that we will be devoting ourselves to, and I'm confident we will meet those challenges. I'm confident of this because of two intangible assets that we possess.

First, our professional staff. These people are so good. They're so committed to the mission of Federation, and they're such a pleasure to work with on a day-to-day basis. And second is us, the people represented in this room. We are the Federation. We are this community. We are what makes the community so vibrant and committed.

And it's for those reasons that I believe Rabbi Broide will once again be proven correct. This will continue to be a great time for our federation. Thank you very much.