Perhaps it was meant to be that Rabbi Herbert Brockman would bring his passion for social justice to the Board of Directors of the Jewish Family Service of Greater New Haven. Brockman, who will be honored at JFS’ June 17th virtual Spring Celebration, has long been dedicated to Jewish values and to the welfare of the entire community. His 2018 retirement from the pulpit at Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden (he is now CMI’s Rabbi Emeritus) was the impetus to look for other channels through which to pursue social action. The Rabbi’s long-standing priorities are a natural fit with JFS’ mission of providing human and social services to the most vulnerable – without regard to race, ethnicity, or religion. Amy Rashba, the agency’s CEO, said, “JFS is proud to honor Rabbi Herb Brockman, whose involvement in both the Jewish and interfaith community epitomizes all that JFS stands for. With warmth, intelligence and a Jewish heart, Rabbi Brockman honors us all with his devotion to [the Jewish tradition of] tikkun olam (“heal the world”). He is a true mensch!”
Brockman has had a long history of social justice activism during his thirty-two-year tenure at CMI, now carried on by his successor, Rabbi Brian Immerman. Under Brockman’s leadership, the synagogue began its participation in Abraham’s tent, providing shelter to homeless men; established a garden to grow produce for area soup kitchens; declared itself a “sanctuary congregation” in response to the Trump administration’s immigration restrictions; and became active in the Jewish Community Alliance for Refugee Resettlement. He attributes his desire to join the Board of JFS to his experience searching for food for an immigrant Latino family whose father was being placed in a church sanctuary to avoid deportation. He said, “Sandy [Hagan, Food Pantry director] opened the pantry just for the family and let them ‘shop.’ When the wife picked up a few items, Sandy insisted, ‘That’s not enough. Fill it up.’ A minister who was accompanying us commented, ‘Your community is amazing.’ I still feel the pride I felt then. It’s why I chose to join the Board of JFS and support their work.”
The June 17th Spring Celebration, JFS’ major annual fundraiser, will be presented virtually this year and will feature a look at some of the agency’s most impactful programs. To register for the event or find more information, go to www.jfsnh.org/celebration.