In the late 1980’s, I was a young 30-something living in my hometown of Tampa, Florida. Having grown up in a household where Federation was an integral part of my life, it seemed only natural that as an adult, I myself would become immersed in Jewish communal work.
The Tampa Young Adult Division was really taking hold in our community during this time. The UJA’s (which merged into what we know today as Jewish Federations of North America) Young Leadership program was also experiencing a surge in activity, tackling issues on both the national and global level. One of the biggest movements of the late 80’s involved advocating on behalf of Soviet Jews for their eventual immigration to the United States and Israel.
Federations found themselves on the cutting edge of philanthropic and leadership development. Anyone who was involved can attest to the passion and excitement felt throughout Jewish communities.
I will never forget the enthusiasm I myself experienced as I attended the UJA’s Young Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. There were no less than 3,000 participants at each of the three conferences I attended. As we moved throughout the various sessions, you could feel the energy swell with each passing hour. Whether we were learning about Judaism as a religion, Israel, or leadership development, each session left participants feeling a sense of hunger for more information and a heightened desire to get even more involved.
Over the years, there has been a shift in the world and JFNA’s role in it. Israeli politics have become more complex than they were 30 years ago. Federations have seen a change in what people want out of the Jewish community, how they communicate, and what drives and inspires them. And it seems as though JFNA has moved into a role of playing catch-up to these changes.
While many philanthropists still support the role of Federations, there are some who feel it now makes more sense to give to an organization that exclusively supports one cause. The beauty of Federation is that it encompasses a multitude of causes important to the Jewish community. And because those issues ebb and flow, Federation finds itself doing the same to match the needs of the community. Click here to read more.
In addition, Federation has in recent years partnered with other non-profit organizations’ activities and programs, such as Birthright and PJ Library, to help promote and support their work in the Jewish community.
These are just a few of the changes we are seeing; however, there are many more on the horizon. In an effort to continue moving forward and navigate these changes, JFNA has assembled a National Strategic Taskforce to help reimagine their current role and what it will look like in the future. I am honored to be a part of this taskforce, participating as the only executive director from a Small Jewish Federation.
Between now and December, 20 professionals and lay leaders from across the country (including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and Cleveland), will participate in various information gathering activities and meet to discuss the findings, as well as brainstorm ways in which JFNA can merge where they are now into where Jewish communities envision them to be in the coming years.
I view this as a great opportunity not only for myself, but for our community as well. My goal is to share our community’s experiences and ideas with JFNA. I would love to hear your opinion about what you feel JFNA’s role in our community will look like in the future. Please feel free to call or email me ~ I would love to chat with you!
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