Mission and Tasks

The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland held its 95th Annual Meeting earlier this week. It was a wonderful program with an amazing speaker. Highlights:

  • Through YOUR generosity, the Jewish Federation has raised in excess of $4 million in total financial resources (an 11% increase over last year) for the first time since 2008. Our total resources go beyond just our Annual Campaign (currently at $3,667,666 – an increase of 5% over last year – with 18 days to go) and includes other special campaigns and endowment income. Much credit goes to our Campaign Chair, Lauren Goldstein, who brings energy and creativity to everything she does. And, best of all, she will be chairing our campaign efforts again next year!
  • Jewish federations have always highlighted their annual (year-to-year) campaign, yet if we look at the past 10 years cumulatively, Federation, with your support, has raised in excess of $38 million for programs and services in our community.
  • Due to our fundraising success and prudent planning, the Jewish Federation is allocating 10% more in funding to local and overseas programs and services. This on top of the 5% more allocated last year. The tireless work of the Allocations Committee under the leadership of Simon Gottheiner, Chair, and Jeff Robinson, Co-Chair, over many months to allocate resources in the best interest of our community is to be commended. In August, our Annual Report will be published detailing the dozens of organizations you are supporting.
  • We announced the recipient of the first ever Laurie Rogoway Jewish Professional Leadership Award Andy Gitelson, Executive Director of The Oregon Hillel Foundation. With the award comes $1,000 towards professional development to further Andy’s skills and talents for the community’s benefit. Mazel tov, Andy!
  • Our success comes from the leadership within our community. At the Annual Meeting we thanked Charlene Zidell, Josh Blank, and Shawn Menashe for their service to the Board as their terms ended. We then elected the following individuals as new Federation Board members: Annette Demsey, Debbie Frank, Jeff Robinson, Sharon Stern, and Jay Zidell. Thank you for your willingness to serve our community.
  • I would be remiss if I did not mention the incredible leadership of David Forman, Federation’s Chair of the Board. His commitment to “what is best for our community” and always looking to the future (understanding our past) are ideals that should be emulated. David will serve for another year and I am confident we will have even greater successes.
  • Finally, a special thank you goes to my professional colleagues at the Jewish Federation. We are a small group in numbers, but make incredible things happen.

So, where is our community going from here?

The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is focused on leading a thoughtful and dramatic process with our community to make the most positive impact on Jewish life in Greater Portland, Israel, and around the world. For decades, we have created and supported a strong communal infrastructure of agencies and institutions. In fact, Federation has been defined by the community as an umbrella of beneficiary agencies. Over time, these agencies developed in size and mission, and the Jewish community expanded by geography, connection, and in complexity.

It is time to be responsive to these changes. Now is when must transform Jewish life for generations to come. Our focus must be on enhancing the Jewish experience for people wherever they are and however they wish to engage Jewishly.

Let’s acknowledge that our Jewish community 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. The Jewish Federation itself has changed. We should no longer be viewed as a fundraising organization. The Jewish Federation serves as a forward-thinking, convening, problem-solving organization that raises funds to support our communal mission, our work, and the people in our Jewish community.

As our 100th anniversary approaches, the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland is working to create more options for Jewish individuals and families to participate in the Jewish community at every stage of their lives. We are innovating ways to bring more people in contact with existing frameworks and institutions. Moreover, we recognize that existing institutions may not be able to meet the full needs of our diverse Jewish community. Therefore, we have the opportunity together to explore and implement new approaches to reach and serve more people, more effectively and efficiently, throughout the community.

Our evening concluded with an impassioned speech by Avraham Infeld, a distinguished educator from Israel who is President Emeritus of International Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Avraham talked brilliantly about the collective memory of the Jewish people and our responsibility to lead a renaissance in Jewish life.

In Infeld’s view, too many Jews particularly in the United States have forgotten the idea of peoplehood, and that is the “most serious danger facing the Jewish people today.” He urged the audience to remember that Jews are a family, and that a family is obligated to hold onto its memory and pass it on to future generations.

His overarching message was quite simple – the shared mission of all Jews is to determine how we ensure the continued significant survival of the Jewish people. Yet, as he explained, every Jewish organization has a different task in fulfilling that mission. “Mission and tasks are two different things, and confusing the one with the other leads to petty jealousies and turf wars,” he said. It was a very interesting characterization of our communal challenges.

I am amazed that I am concluding my fifth year (time flies) as CEO of this wonderful Jewish Federation. I am very proud of our very successful year, which would not be possible without the dedicated volunteer and professional team at the Jewish Federation. Most of all – thank you to YOU – our community! Together we will go from strength to strength and fulfill our shared mission for the Jewish people.

Shabbat shalom.



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