On Wednesday evening, over 200 community members came out for a beautiful memorial service for Charlie Schiffman, who passed away suddenly one month ago. Past presidents of the Jewish Federation, rabbinic leaders, colleagues and friends all shared wonderful stories and sentiments about Charlie. Here is a beautiful video from the Schiffman family that they shared with our community.
As the summer months come to a close (let’s hope the weather remains well into the fall), the Jewish Federation continues its work for our community. Last evening, we held our initial governing board meeting for the year. Our board consists of 18 community members, five who are new.
One of the key areas of focus for every organization is board development. Our board participated in a workshop led by Joe Hertzberg of Solid Ground Consulting about essential roles of a board. We focused on:
- Volunteer board and professional roles and how to build a strong partnership
- Working together as an effective team
- Expectations of individual board members
Our leadership recognizes we can always be better at what we do. Decision-making processes can be more clearly defined. Development of key goals and objectives for the year must be done from the start. Evidence/data based decisions should be weighed against “what feels right for the community.” And, of course, determine our overall direction to help lead our Jewish community.
Our board represents a cross-section of the Jewish community with a diversity of ideas. This helps in our efforts to be agents of change. It leads to a sense of commitment, a pursuit of excellence, and a constant questioning of what we do. I recognize this may be no different than every other (Jewish) non-profit organization, yet it helps to keep us grounded as we experiment, evaluate, and test traditional and innovative ideas.
The last time I was with Charlie Schiffman (in December 2014 for dinner in Jerusalem) we had a wonderful conversation about the Federation world. Despite being retired, his longstanding passion and commitment to the Jewish Federation was evident. We talked about the kinds of questions we should continually ask ourselves to remain relevant and successful. I recall our conversation including the following:
- How well have we defined our purposes?
- How flexible are we in what we do? Are we adapting to changes in needs, conditions and opportunities?
- Have we defined our priorities? How selective are we in what we undertake, and how much we undertake?
- Are we meeting the major needs and issues – the major Jewish responsibilities of our time?
- Are we doing it with excellence and quality, knowing that we are dealing with human lives and happiness in a rapidly changing world that is opening up new frontiers?
All of this ties back to our board’s work from last evening. These are all appropriate and important questions for organizations to ask themselves as we strive to meet the current and future needs of the Jewish people.
Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles recently shared the following story. “When I was young my father told me a story about a boy and his father who were walking along a road.” The boy spotted a large rock. “Do you think I can move that rock?” the boy asked his father. His father answered, “I’m sure you can, if you use all your strength.” The boy walked over to the rock and pushed and pushed, but the rock didn’t budge. “You were wrong,” he said. “I tried as hard as I could, and I failed.”
“No,” said his father. “You didn’t use all your strength. You didn’t ask me to help.”
Last night the Federation board and professional team asked each other for help – to be even better at our difficult leadership tasks. Moreover, the Jewish Federation is all about asking for help. We do this in a variety of ways. We ask for financial philanthropic support for our community’s work. We ask for your participation in Jewish life – in the ways of most meaning and interest to you. And we seek the “know-how and know-why” to bring to life our age-old noble Jewish values and tradition.
The Jewish Federation wants the involvement of all Jews, for the responsibilities we carry are the responsibilities of all Jews. But these responsibilities are not the totality of Jewish life. Both within and outside the range of those issues and goals, there is need for continuing ferment of creative, adventuring innovation of thought and action. That ferment, that diversity of ideas impacting on each other, has been the imperative life blood of Jewish dynamism. That is why the Greater Portland Jewish community is so blessed. I can assure you the Jewish Federation’s leadership will never allow uniformity to bring stagnation.
As is often said – a rising tide lifts all boats. It takes continuous development. Only together as a community – where we help, support, and develop one another – can we all be most successful.