Leverage + Impact = Future

As we approach the end of the calendar year, our mailboxes and inboxes quickly get filled with direct mail letters asking for charitable support. The Jewish Federation, like every other non-profit organization, relies on your philanthropic contributions. One major difference – our campaign is not about an institution or a specific cause – it is about building a strong and vibrant Jewish community – for all of us. 

As I go around town meeting with community members and speaking to Jewish organizations, I continue to stress that Federation is the Jewish organization in Portland solely focused on everyone else’s success. Our Annual Campaign’s purpose is to raise financial resources to be distributed to our partner agencies that provide the critical programs and services needed in Portland, Israel and around the world. Although we market the millions of dollars we raise, our campaign is not about a tympani drum and giant tote board. Our campaign is about leveraging thousands of contributions and maximizing the impact of those dollars!

We must ask ourselves what kind of impact do we want? It was Albert Einstein who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Unfortunately, in some ways we are insane. While doing the same thing, our community continues to grow in size with fewer people connected, involved, and affiliated. Why? One hypothesis is that we are always playing “catch up” with our philanthropy – trying to meet yesterday’s budget needs while struggling to plan for the future. We must rethink our efforts and set lofty goals to create innovative and daring programs that connect many more in our community. Here are three incredible national examples…

  • Birthright Israel, funded through Federation, did not exist 10 years ago. Since its inception, over 250,000 young people from around the world (including over 2,000 from Portland) have participated in this 10-day trip to Israel at no cost.

  • PJ Library, currently sponsored by the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, provides free Jewish children’s book on a monthly basis to over 750 children in Portland (and 65,000 nationally).

  • Through the national Foundation for Jewish Camp, partnering with local area Jewish overnight camps, financial incentives have been provided for first- and second-year campers (including hundreds from Portland).

All three of these highly successful programs were initially deemed impossible or silly. Instead, these may be the three most successful initiatives in Jewish life today – and all began outside the framework of the typical Federation beneficiary agency system. It is these types of new and creative ideas that will enhance Jewish life in the future. We can do the very same things here in Portland through Federation’s Annual Campaign by leveraging your support. Not only can we fund many of the current needs of our local agencies, we can also invest in new initiatives – but only with greater philanthropic support.

If you follow my weekly emails, you will see that I am focused on change – on new models for our community. I must admit, for some, change is difficult. But we all know it is necessary!

For our community to be different tomorrow we will require an infusion of additional charitable dollars and an incredible investment of energy -- from people like you! Naturally, so much of our philanthropic effort goes toward covering budget deficits. We must change the paradigm so philanthropy is used for experimentation and the creation of new initiatives (like the life changing experiences described above), so we can truly develop a 21st century Jewish community. We cannot do tomorrow’s work with yesterday’s dollars. Therefore, your Federation – read that, your Jewish community, needs you and your increased financial support. Please make your commitment today by clicking here.

Partner with me in investing in and rethinking Jewish Portland.


Shabbat Shalom.


Israel Update:

As of Monday, the fires that burned across Israel's north were extinguished, and residents from the areas' evacuated towns returned to their homes. Over 16,000+ acres (to put into perspective -- that is equal to Forest Park burning down three times over) were destroyed and 42 people died. In fighting the fire, Israel enlisted 35 aircraft from 10 countries, including a Boeing 747 “supertanker,” which sprayed giant showers of red flame retardant from Evergreen International Aviation Inc. of McMinnville, Oregon. We are grateful for their efforts in Israel and proud of the Oregon connection.

Thank you to those of you who responded to the crisis. Our Federation, along with our overseas partners (JAFI and JDC) and the Government of Israel, acted in a very focused and timely manner to help support the victims of this disaster.

With the immediate crisis behind us, Israel will go through the difficult challenge of forest restoration. Please visit www.jnf.org and help plant trees through the Jewish National Fund.


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