As the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland closes out its fiscal year, our community should be proud of its accomplishments. Due to our fundraising success and internal budget reductions we will be putting $100,000 additional into the community for programs and services. We saw an increase in the number of donors for the first time in many years. Federation provided $300,000 in funding for 14 new community impact grants and we announced a “Next Great Jewish Idea.” It was a very positive year – and there is so much more to be done.
At the April Federation Board meeting, I outlined six key areas I am focused on for Federation going forward. (Please note that this was my personal list and not developed jointly with the Board.) To me, going forward, I see Federation as the:
• Center for Jewish communal philanthropy – The philanthropic world is changing. For years people have talked about the demise of “umbrella organizations” such as Federation and the United Way. For 91 years, the Jewish Federation has been the lead fundraising organization in our Jewish community and that continues to this day. No one gift touches more lives and more segments of our Jewish community than your annual campaign contribution. Together, in partnership with you, and our network of partner agencies, we can be even more successful in our fundraising endeavors. Success will not come from “fighting for every dollar;” instead, it will come from collaborations and partnerships. It is no secret that in Jewish communities across North America where Federation is strong and central, more dollars in total are being raised. And where Federation is weak, the agency system is weak. It is the “power of the collective,” where thousands of donors leverage their own giving with that of others.
Federation is here to help you make your philanthropic hopes and dreams become a reality. The annual campaign is just one vehicle for philanthropic giving -- we are open to any and all conversations. In fact, Federation will be working even more closely with the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation in developing permanent endowments for communal programs and institutions.
• Incubator for Innovation – We have already taken giant steps forward with our Community Impact Grants and our Next Great Jewish Idea contest. Our Board will be looking at this early in the next fiscal year to decide if we should set money aside once again. I was amazed by the proposals that came forward. We will continue to look to you and others outside of Portland for ideas on how to impact larger segments of our Jewish community. Jewish Portland will be the “test laboratory” for Jewish America and you will hear more incredible and unique ideas in the upcoming months.
• Force for strengthening Jewish identity and connection – Jewish education and Jewish opportunities are of utmost importance. I want to see more children attend our outstanding Jewish day schools, Portland Jewish Academy and Maimonides Jewish Day School...greater numbers of children participating in overnight Jewish camps like B’nai B’rith Camp and Camp Solomon Schechter...connecting more young people on college campuses through Hillel...larger numbers experiencing Israel on teen programs and birthright israel. And let’s not forget Jewish pre-schools, supplementary Hebrew schools at our local synagogues, Jewish youth groups (BBYO, USY, NFTY, NCSY), young adult outreach programs like Moishe House (with a new one opening on the east side of town today), cultural initiatives like those at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Jewish Theater Collaborative, adult education opportunities throughout the community, including Melton, and of course, being a part of our Mittleman Jewish Community Center as our "Jewish neighborhood living room." These all play major roles in developing Jewish identity and perhaps, more importantly, connections. The more meaningful experiences we can provide the more successful our community will be in the future.
• Driver for building a caring and nurturing Jewish community – Unfortunately, Jewish Portland has community members out of work…people unable to pay their bills…families challenged with caring for people with special needs…and seniors who can no longer manage on their own. We are blessed to have Jewish Family and Child Service and Cedar Sinai Park providing quality care and services to those most vulnerable in our community. Our service areas need to expand as new challenges arise and be on the cutting-edge of new service delivery models. We are a community that cares and takes care of its own.
• Convener and facilitator for connection with Israel and world Jewry – The Portland Jewish community does not live in isolation. And our tradition teaches us that “Jews are responsible one for another.” We have an obligation to provide critical services to Jewish communities around the world, whether in the former Soviet Union, Cuba, Israel, or scores of other countries. We do this through our long-standing partners the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The work performed around the world is truly remarkable -- whether taking care of home-bound elderly with food and home health aides, providing Jewish identity building youth clubs and camps in former Communist countries, or community leadership development programs, we play a role in the global Jewish community.
We must also enhance our relationship with the State of Israel by understanding the current realities and knowing the people. The physical distance is great, yet the only way to truly understand Israel is to experience Israel. I am pleased to announce that Federation will be leading a mission to Israel in February 2012 -- more details will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead (if interested, please reply to this email and let me know).
• Model for non-profit excellence – Federation is governed by an outstanding group of volunteers, managed by a group of committed professionals, transparent in its operations and funding, and provides technical support to other organizations when called upon. We are focused on being as efficient as possible so your charitable dollars provide greater services in our Jewish community. We will be a role model for non-profit organizations throughout the State of Oregon.
Federation and philanthropic organizations have their challenges, especially in today’s economy. Yet, I am confident with greater attention on the areas mentioned above, new initiatives, and an emphasis on “excellence” we can achieve greater results. Make no mistake, I am proud of what Jewish Portland is today. I know we will be even more proud in the years ahead.
I look forward to another wonderful year for Federation and our Jewish community – with your help and support!
Shabbat shalom and enjoy the July 4th holiday weekend.