Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the three abducted teens, Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel and their families. Internationally, our community continues to look for ways to support the three kidnapped teenagers; many organized efforts have surfaced. For our part, the North American Jewish Federation system has launched a “virtual letter” to the families at bringbackourboys.net. Please join the thousands of others in signing on to the letter. May the three teenagers return home safe as quickly as possible.
Last night, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland held its 94th Annual Meeting. We shared our successes of the past year, as well as discussed opportunities for the future. Let me share some highlights with you:
As of today, with 11 days remaining in Campaign 2014, we have raised $3,534,496. This is an increase over what we raised last year. In fact, over the past four years we have raised in excess of $13.5 million for our community. Mazel tov and a special “thank you” goes to Andrew Berlinberg, our Campaign Chair, since so much of our success is based on his hard work and efforts. And, of course, we have incredible gratitude to all of you, our generous donors, who enable us to enhance Jewish life through your philanthropy.
Due to the success of our Annual Campaign and other strategies, we are able to allocate 5% more in financial resources to our Jewish community.
Every year allocations is a difficult decision-making process. Under the able leadership of Simon Gottheiner, Allocations Chair, and a group of committed community members, Federation is able not only to fund our traditional agency partners, but support new initiatives. We recognize that Jewish life does not only happen within the walls of Federation’s historic agency partners – it lives and thrives all around us in Jewish organizations large and small. We want to enable them all to make an impact on our Jewish community.
Several of the community’s new initiatives:
One Happy Camper – Federation, in partnership with the Foundation for Jewish Camp, is providing $1000 or $700 incentive grants (depending on length of camp session) to children attending Jewish overnight camp for the first time. We are excited that 74 children will be spending their first summer at one of 12 Jewish camps across the country.
Jewish Preschool Incentive Grants – The details are still being finalized, but the Jewish Federation will be providing incentive grants to encourage more Jewish families to select Jewish pre-school for their children for the 2015-2016 school year (we could not make happen for this upcoming school year). Modeled after successful programs in Chicago and Palm Beach, Federation will be seeking matching grants totaling $30,000 to make the program fully operational. We will be sharing more details in the fall.
Jewish Youth Groups – The Jewish Federation will provide financial assistance to teens who wish to participate in formal Jewish youth group conventions, programs, etc. We recognize the high cost of these programs and do not want cost to be a barrier to participation. Funding is available for teens in BBYO, NCSY, NFTY and USY.
GrapeVine – Although only seven months old, I am excited to share that over 30 Jewish organizations have already partnered with the Jewish Federation on GrapeVine. To date, 12,000 individuals receive the GrapeVine weekly email of communal programs and activities. 40% of GrapeVine recipients have used the program. We are delighted by the results as they are well beyond our initial expectations. A special thank you goes to the Holzman Family Foundation for their three-year supporting grant.
Overseas – Beyond our core allocations to our overseas partners the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, we also fund specific social service programs in Israel. Two new ones this year I want to highlight are IGY (Israel Gay Youth), the only nationwide organization in Israel dedicated to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth. The other is The Women’s Courtyard, an organization focused on the acute physical, financial, social and emotional needs of at-risk girls and neglected young women. Our funds will establish the program in Kiryat Malachi and focus on humanitarian assistance, vocational training, and legal assistance to help women lift themselves out of economic hardship.
Our Annual Report in August will detail our full range of allocations, but here is a snapshot of funded organizations and programs.
Earlier this week we hosted two webinars where community members could hear more from community consultant, Lou Feldstein, on Jewish Portland Tomorrow. I hope they found the webinars insightful and provided further context. As I mentioned previously, we will be hosting two Town Hall Meetings at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center where people can learn more and share their feedback. The dates are Tuesday, July 29 and Wednesday, August 6 at 7:00 p.m. We welcome everyone in the community to attend – please click here to register.
Finally, I must express my sincerest gratitude and appreciation for my volunteer partner – Michael Weiner. Michael served as Chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland for the past three years. Michael is THE consummate volunteer leader – process oriented, interested in hearing various viewpoints, focused on results, encourages risk-taking, and willing to embrace new ideas and change. The best way to express Michael’s mindset – if it is good for the community, then we should make every effort to make it happen. I cannot count the hours Michael put into this position while balancing his professional career and family. Michael, yasher koach on a job well done! I know I have grown so much from our partnership. On behalf of the Greater Portland Jewish community – THANK YOU!
Shabbat shalom – and let's all welcome the official start of summer.