Initial Priorities In Stages of Life

In 2015, the Federation Governing Board, under the leadership of Board Chair David Forman, began to undertake a thoughtful and deliberate process of transformation for the Jewish Federation to make a lasting impact on Jewish life in Greater Portland, Israel, and around the world.

The Jewish community of Greater Portland is not impervious to shifting national and local trends, both general and Jewish, that are affecting the needs, challenges, attitudes, and very constructs of our community today. An array of demographic, economic, social, generational, geographic, and philanthropic shifts are challenging established norms and models. (How is that for a bunch of words?) It is evident that different and new ways of community building and engagement are needed.

Trends for us to consider:

  • Research clearly shows that older constructs and existing Jewish institutions are resonating less with today’s American Jews.
  • The Jewish community has lost major market share among Generation X (born 1965-1981) and is poised to do even worse with millennials (born 1982-2000).
  • Raised on values of pluralism and social justice, today’s American Jews struggle with what they perceive to be the exclusivity of Judaism, preferring instead the “universalist” values they see in secular life.
  • Jews today are engaging more in “do-it-yourself” (DIY) Judaism.
  • Programs need to better address people’s desires for meaningful social relationships.
  • We need to meet people where they are, even in public and secular spaces.
  • We need to seek new, out-of-the box ways to bring people in contact with our Jewish community and Jewish communal partners.

The Jewish Federation is looking at the community in a new way. Our focus is on identifying and facilitating attractive and meaningful options for Jewish individuals and families to participate at every stage of their lives. Moreover, we recognize that our existing infrastructure may not be fully meeting the needs of our diverse Jewish community. Therefore, we must explore and implement new approaches to reach and serve more people – more effectively and efficiently, throughout the community.

We are beginning to look at our Jewish community and our funding allocations through the lens of “life stages.”   These life stages include:

School Age Children/Teens
College Age
Young Adults (22-35)
Baby Boomers

As we implement this new strategy, we understand we cannot make the desired impact if we try to tackle each stage of life simultaneously. The old adage rings true – “If you try to do everything…you will end up accomplishing nothing.”

For the past several months, the Jewish Federation Governing Board reviewed ideas, information, and funding about each of the various “stages of life.” They then narrowed the discussion to three stages – school-age children/teens, young adults, and baby boomers. The Federation professional team provided information on each of these stages, noting trends, potential ideas and outcomes, followed by numerous informational articles and studies so the Board could do its due diligence. Click here to see the information that was shared (note there are links for each of the three finalist life stages with 50-70 pages of information -- we could have included hundreds of pages for each).

We looked at what is currently being offered in our community in those three life stages, the amount of funding Federation is providing, and then evaluated which areas we could have the greatest immediate impact. After much discussion, the Board decided to focus on two initial underserved life stages –school-age children/teens and young adults (ages 22-35) as the first two priority areas.

Federation will be seeking proposals from local and national Jewish organizations for new initiatives or amplification of existing programs and services to meet the needs of these life stages. Collaboration between organizations is a requirement. And, proposals that address multi-generational approaches to these life stages are welcome.

We are expanding the dynamic of how we allocate dollars and looking at funding new and innovative programs. We will, of course, continue to provide strong support to our network of partner agencies. This way, we will make an impact by creating new portals and/or expanding current services to reach our growing and diverse Jewish population.

Congratulations to the Jewish Federation Board for its diligence, creativity, and effort in making this decision. We are confident we will make a tremendous impact for the long-term future of our Jewish community. And in upcoming years we will expand our efforts into the other life stage areas, understanding that each is important for Jewish continuity and connectedness.

If you would like additional information, please do not hesitate to respond to this email.

Shabbat shalom.


As a reminder…Oregon Jewish Life magazine (an independent for-profit company) has moved to a subscription-based model. The magazine is only being mailed now to the homes of paid subscribers. The cost is $12 per year/$20 for two years. Please call 503-892-7403 or click here to subscribe. Complimentary copies of OJL are available at area congregations, community centers, and New Seasons, along with multiple other retail locations.


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