Posted by Ellen Ogintz Fishman
I remember reading the groundbreaking book, “The Secular City,” by Harvey Cox, for a religious studies class in college, not long after it was published in 1965. It was an extraordinary pleasure to listen to Cox’ keynote address at the second Board of Advocates annual meeting. Rather concisely—given the event—and very lucidly, with humanity and openness, he described the changes in the state of religion from that time to today, talked about fundamentalism, and emphasized his hope that the basic values that various traditions share and that guide the mission of JF&CS will remain in place. Professor Cox taught at the Harvard Divinity School for forty-four years until his retirement in 2009. He is a prolific author and leading world scholar whose teaching focus has been the interaction of religion, culture, and politics. As a good professor will, he left ample time for questions from his audience.
The mission of the JF&CS Board of Advocates is to enhance the effectiveness of the organization’s work as the leading provider of comprehensive human services in Greater Boston by extending the agency’s circle of friends and ambassadors. The annual meeting brings together members of the Board of Advocates to highlight JF&CS programs and to participate in discussions with agency leadership, staff, and expert speakers in a collegial atmosphere.
Professor Cox’s keynote address was very different from but complementary to the morning’s panel discussion, entitled, “What’s Going to Happen in Health Care, No Matter What Happens in Washington?” Sy Friedland, former CEO of JF&CS, moderated a discussion between Paul Levy, author and expert in a variety of fields including health care, public administration, energy conservation, and government relations, and former president and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Charlie Baker, Entrepreneur in Residence at General Catalyst Partners and former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. Theirs was a discussion that felt intimate and down-to-earth, about the changes and challenges of medical care today. What was most illuminating to me, was that they both have eminently sensible ideas for changes that would be relatively easy to effect, that would yield large savings in the costs of medical care, and that would be appealing to medical professionals and patients alike.
Their suggestions dovetailed with the JF&CS ten-year strategic plan that was illustrated by the personal stories that Rimma Zelfand, new JF&CS CEO, told, and by the powerful JF&CS short film, Find Help. Find Answers. Find Hope.
This program, whose purpose was to elicit increased interest in JF&CS and its programs, had a satisfying arc, from a nitty-gritty discussion to a more philosophical overview, including meaningful words from Harvey Greenberg, Board of Advocates chair; Rimma Zelfand; and Jackie Weinstein, president, Board of Directors…not to mention a delicious lunch. If I didn’t already work here, I’d want to become involved.
Ellen Ogintz Fishman started Holocaust Services at JF&CS in 1993. Combining her clinical skills and interest in history she has shepherded the program through its evolution as the major provider of services to aging Holocaust survivors in the Boston area. She does freelance writing on the Holocaust and other topics. She graduated from Brown University and received her MSW from Simmons College.