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SYDA honoree invokes election; Polish immigrant founded New Hope Community

Daniel Berkowicz, right, receives accolades from members of the SYDA Foundation.

By Fritz Mayer
November 18, 2016

The Community Service Award from the SYDA Foundation has become perhaps the most visible award bestowed in Sullivan County. It is granted to citizens who have demonstrated a life-long commitment to community service.

At a ceremony at the government center on November 17, the award this year was given to Daniel Berkowicz who founded the New Hope Community and was its executive director for 35 years. He is also a longtime member of eh Loch Sheldrake Volunteer Fire Department and is a volunteer for and a member of Hospice of Orange and Sullivan Counties.

Berkowicz is also an immigrant from Poland who came to the United States at 17 years of age.

After receiving the award Berkowicz said he had a hard time coming up with remarks to deliver at the occasion. He said, “I’m so preoccupied in the last ten days, with our political environment … this is a time when I’m trying to find my balance.

“I remember as a young man looking at my green card as an immigrant, and valuing that card as a life saver, and waiting five years before I could take the citizenship test, with so much trepidation, and finally getting it. It was a milestone of my life, my family’s life as immigrants.

“So for the last couple of days, I’ve been trying to define what’s important to me, since I’ve been hearing so much what’s important to others. And I tried to define my commitment to myself as I live and partake of our society.

“And I realized the things that are important to me are living with dignity, asking my community members to be tolerant of each other. Asking our community to support women’s choice, asking our community members to embrace our immigrants as I was embraced, asking our community members to partake in a process that enhances our quality of life, supporting people of different abilities … doesn’t sound like a lot.

“Sounds like the common decency of one human being to the other. We stumble periodically, and that stumble creates so many adversities. We don’t need miracles, we don’t need leaders. We really need to come together as a nation, as a person, in order to create the kind of environment where people could live with dignity and trust.

“So I invite you all to join in whatever way you can through the process of law, through the human process, of trying to reach out and create an environment that we can be proud of.

“I’m apprehensive, but I am hopeful. I will stand behind our president’s office, I will stand behind the process that we have committed ourselves to in this democracy, but we will not succeed without trust.”