SOURCE: The Federation - Jewish Communities of Western CT

March 17, 2011 09:12 ET

Western CT Jewish Federation Exec Steps Down After Two Decades of Service

SOUTHBURY, CT--(Marketwire - March 17, 2011) - Robert Zwang, Executive Director for the Federation - Jewish Communities of Western Connecticut, announced his decision to leave his position. "After almost twenty years of service to the local Jewish community in Western Connecticut, I am ready to seek new opportunities and professional challenges," said Zwang. He and the Federation have agreed that he remain in his position through June 2011. Having joined the Federation in August 1992, Mr. Zwang worked to strengthen the Jewish community locally and overseas.

Zwang's first large initiative was to help lead the local Jewish community through a strategic planning process and the associated development of various new Jewish organizations in the regional area. The culmination of that planning process was the construction of the Walzer Family Jewish Community Campus in Southbury, Connecticut in 2002. The campus houses the Federation, which runs the William and Audrey Walzer Alef Bet Preschool, the Brownstein Jewish Family Service. The Federation and the Reform Synagogue, B'nai Israel, was the first collaboration between two such organizations in the construction of a combined Jewish campus facility. Located within the campus is also the Conservative Synagogue, Beth El.

Over his twenty-year tenure, the local Jewish Federation brought aid and support directly to the Jewish community in Kazan. Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan in the former Soviet Union. Their efforts in Israel supported Jewish continuity, issues relating to security, health care and connecting the local community to Israel. The Federation has been involved for almost a decade in dental health projects. Ultimately the work of our Federation in Israel, Zwang said, "is to strengthen Israel's security and to support efforts which develop equality and co-existence between Jewish and Arab Israelis and to help foster ties between Israel and her Palestinian neighbors." Zwang went on to say that "our significant efforts in the area of coexistence are directly tied to Israel's future."

In 1999 the Federation led an experiment in collaboration with the international conflict resolution organization, Seeds of Peace. This initiative brought together around 200 youth from Afula/Gilboa in Northern Israel, together with youth from the border Palestinian community of Jenin. "All the kids from Afula, Gilboa, Jenin and Northern Jordan live only twenty minutes from one another," said Zwang. As a result of the Federation's leadership and vision, this collaborative effort afforded the unlikely chance for these youth to meet their enemy. As founder of Seeds of Peace, John Wallach, used to say, "Their enemy has a face."

In 2009 the Federation's leadership was responsible for the visit of the Northern Israeli Mayor of Gilboa, Danny Attar, his Arab Deputy, Eid Saleem, and the Palestinian Governor of Jenin, Qaddoura M. Qaddoura. The Federation was intrigued with the ground-up model for Social and Economic development, supported by former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Zwang said, "Yes, such co-existence projects are new and unusual, but they are about helping to foster prosperity, for Israel and the Palestinians." He went on to say that in his role as the Federation's professional leader, "I view one of the Federation's most important missions, as helping to ensure Israel's future through fostering peaceful coexistence with her Palestinian neighbors." Mr. Zwang went on to say that the Federation's, "primary raison d'etre has been to make connections between our local Jewish community and Jewish communities world-wide, ensure a strong local Jewish community and continue the millennium old responsibility of Jewish continuity."

Zwang said, "After twenty years living and working in our greater Waterbury area, my family has developed very close ties to many people and we intend to remain in the area and continue to be a part of such a warm, friendly and supportive community."

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