A friendly wildebeest welcomes users to a new resource guide and calendar put together by the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, containing information on a plethora of aspects of Jewish life in the community.
“Who g(Nu)?” — a 48-page spiral-bound guide to area happenings, services, and resources — is designed to be user-friendly. Enlivened by colorful graphics, it offers an easy-to-read calendar, a list of key figures and events in Jewish history, facts and news links on Israel, web links to divrei Torah, a directory of local agencies and synagogues and national organizations, “Who g(Nu)?” fun facts — and, of course, that welcoming wildebeest.
So why the gnu (another name for wildebeest)? It was chosen, said Amy Cooper, the federation’s associate executive vice president and director of financial resource development, because of the animal’s “swarm intelligence,” its collective behavior that allows members of the herd to look out for one another. This notion, said Cooper, dovetails nicely with the Jewish community’s philosophy of “Kol Yisrael areivim zeh bazeh” (“All of Israel is responsible for one another”).
Besides, said Cooper, the mascot has obvious humor and gives a nod to the traditional Jewish expression “nu.”
A glance at the “Who g(Nu)?” tidbits throughout the guide reveals an array of interesting facts, including that the Hebrew calendar repeats itself only once every 19 years and that the largest Pesach seder in the world is held by Chabad-Lubavitch in Nepal.
Federation leadership embraced the new guide as a service that “fills a void that exists in the community,” said executive vice president Stanley Stone, adding that community members had been asking for such a publication.
“I’m hoping people will glance through it and get a better sense of what the community does,” said Cooper.
Creation of the resource guide arose out of a strategic planning initiative undertaken by the federation. Stone said the organization reached out to the community over the last several months in an effort to engage people “where they’re at,” including at community fairs in Westfield, Scotch Plains, Basking Ridge, and Cranford.
Cooper said that “getting our message into people’s homes” is an effective tool to raising community awareness.
The federation has already received positive feedback about the guide; “we’ve gotten a really tremendous response,” Cooper said.
“The reaction has been really phenomenal,” agreed Stone. “You rarely hear what you do right, but this has clearly struck a chord.”
“It’s getting our message inside the home, and hopefully it will pay off,” Cooper said.