I just got back from a week in Israel, where I had the opportunity to visit and check in on many of the programs you make possible through your support of our Federation. However, the primary purpose of my trip was to attend and represent our Los Angeles Jewish community at the annual Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly (GA). Following on the heels of the recent Pew report, which came out several weeks ahead of the GA, it was quite an extraordinary time to be in Israel, let alone meet with Jewish leaders from around the world to address the critical challenges we are facing as a People. The GA confirmed that our Federation is at the forefront of the organized Jewish world in developing innovative ways to engage young adults in Jewish life. In fact, our Federation led three sessions on the topic that were widely attended, and we were featured in two articles within The Jerusalem Post’s GA coverage.
On a panel of Federation chief executives discussing the findings of the Pew report, I told audience members that we are at a moment that, frankly, if the Jewish Federations don’t seize, there won’t be communities left for us to raise money in. It’s time for us to recognize that what got us here isn’t going to get us there. So all the answers that we think we have and all the programs that are working, clearly are not working enough. The Pew study shows us we have more work to do. Birthright Israel is not the answer, it’s part of the answer. Preschool education is not the answer, it’s part of the answer. We should make sure that our number one job as Federations is building communities. We raise money to do our work; our work is not to raise money. If there is no Jewish community 50 years from now, then everything that we did was for naught. Read more about the panel in this Jerusalem Post story, as well as this article that validates the importance of the work our Federation has been doing to ensure the Jewish future. For more on my thoughts on the challenges and opportunities related to the Pew report, read my previous blog post.
Of course, I was not alone in representing our L.A. community at the GA. I was joined by our Chairman Richard Sandler, incoming Chairman Les Bider, General Campaign Chair Sharon Janks, our Federation’s Valley Alliance incoming Chair Rochelle Cohen, Women’s Campaign Chair Ellen Silverman, and Campaign Co-Chair Jill Namm; as well as past Chairman of the Board Stanley Gold. Additionally, our Community Engagement Chair Daniel Gryczman and Elaine Lokshin were both honored as Outstanding Young Leaders in the Federation system.
“We’re looking at what others are doing to connect people to their Judaism and learning from the best models,” said Richard. According to Les, “It was an opportunity for us to meet with people from different communities, to vet ideas about how we and they are changing.” For more on our Federation’s role at the GA, read this story in the Jewish Journal.
Coinciding with the GA, the leadership of our Valley Alliance Women’s Campaign led a total of 24 women from our community on a mission to see the work we fund in Israel. And our Federation’s Chief Program Officer Andrew Cushnir testified in front of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee, representing JFNA /North American Jewry at a hearing focused on global anti-Semitism/anti-Israel bias and community responses.
I am proud that our community was extremely well-represented in Israel, and more importantly, together we are becoming a global factor in terms of our impact in the shaping the future of Jewish life.
Visiting Israel is always an amazing experience, no matter how many times I’ve been. This past week was truly one to remember.