Federation Takes Stock of Post Oct. 7 Efforts at Annual Meeting

Over 300 people gathered at the Mayerson JCC on May 22 for the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s 128th annual meeting. 

The meeting provided a platform for the Federation to reflect on the past year, share updates on campaigns and plans for the future, and honor members of the Jewish community who have made a lasting impact since the transformative events of Oct 7.  

Before the meeting began, the Amberly Village Chief of Police spoke, as he had at many Jewish gatherings since protestors disrupted an event with pro-Israel activist Hen Mazzig in April. 

“While this event is open to the public, it is a private event,” said Chief Richard Wallace. “If anyone attempts to disrupt the event, they will be removed from the premises. If anyone engages with a disruptor, they will also be removed.”

The hour-long meeting featured addresses from Josh Blatt, the Federation’s board chair; Danielle Minson, CEO; David Harris, chief development officer; and Sheri Symson, vice president of the Board of Trustees.

Editor’s Note: This Video Contains Graphic Images

The event began with a video showing footage of Oct. 7, testimony from survivors, and the Jewish Cincinnati community response, including the community solidarity event at the Adath Israel synagogue and the March against antisemitism in Washington, D.C. It also highlighted the financial impact of the community’s fundraising efforts for Israelis and survivors of Oct. 7. 

After the video, Blatt asked the gathered crowd to take a moment of silence for the victims of Oct. 7. 

“We meet tonight in a much different world than 365 days ago,” said Blatt. 

In the aftermath of Oct. 7, the Jewish Federations of North America created the Swords of Iron fund. The fund pooled contributions from Jewish Federations across the country, including Cincinnati. Blatt shared with the audience the impact of their collective efforts.

“You and the American Jewish population rose up politically and financially,” he said. “Nationwide donating almost a billion dollars to meet emergency needs of Israel, $4.6 million in Cincinnati alone.”

These funds were directly channeled to Israelis affected by Oct. 7, providing mental health care and financial assistance.  

CEO Danielle Minson outlined the Federation’s response to this year’s crises, emphasizing the “both/and” approach—addressing crises while supporting ongoing community needs. 

“128 years ago, the Federation was created to act, and this year, we will say with the deepest urgency: we will not be victims,” said Minson. 

Since Oct. 7, the Federation has been working to address the rise in antisemitism. Through the Jewish Community Relations Council and SAFE Cincinnati, the Federation has been countering antisemitism at schools and universities. Minson announced increased security funding for Jewish institutions in Cincinnati.

“Our fundraising totals have increased by 50% compared to last year,” Minson said. “In addition to significant fundraising for Israel, we’ve raised an unprecedented amount to address the need for an increased level of security.” 

Along with increasing support for security at Hillels and Chabads at the University of Cincinnati and Miami University, Minson told the crowd that to help combat antisemitism, the federation advocated for passing the federal bill that will effectively ban TikTok. Many critics of TikTok claim that the popular video-sharing app has an anti-Israel bias. 

“Antisemitism is threatening our way of life and undermining Israel as a legitimate nation,” said board chair Blatt. 

The ongoing Israel-Hamas war has created rifts in the Jewish community. Many of the protestors who disrupted the Hen Mazzig event in April were Jewish. Minson emphasized that all Jews, even those who disagree with the Federation’s stance on Israel, have a place in our community and that they will be heard. 

“The federation is committed to dialogue with Jews of every viewpoint,” she said. “Our commitment to inclusion means all voices deserve to be heard.”

Following Minson’s both/and approach of addressing current challenges while planning for the future, David Harris, the chief development officer, spoke about Kibbutz Carmia, a community receiving direct support from the Cincinnati Federation. 

Harris announced that the Federation is bringing nine children from Kibbutz Carmia, a community near the Gaza Strip that has been under rocket fire for six months, to Camp Livingston this summer.

Due to the ongoing war in Gaza, the community mission to Israel originally planned for this summer was canceled. Minson announced that it has been rescheduled for the summer of 2025.

The Federation meeting also allowed the Jewish community to celebrate Jewish professionals and volunteers after an incredibly difficult period. The meeting took a moment to honor all Jewish professionals in the room.

The Harris K. and Alice F. Weston Avodah Awards are given to senior and junior professionals working at Jewish institutions. This year’s junior award winner was Rachel Marchese of the Jewish Vocational Service, and the senior award winner was Community Sally Schott. Nina Paul, a lay leader who has served on multiple boards and is a past President of Adath Israel, won the Volunteer of the Year. 

Despite the many successes of the past year, Minson and Blatt did not shy away from the fact that the Jewish community and the Federation still face many challenges. 

“The crisis is not yet over,” said Minson. “Despite the fog, we will continue to plan, pivot, and move forward with agility and care.”