Overcoming Hurdles

The news of this morning’s massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Japan is unsettling to say the least. The most powerful earthquake to hit Japan in more than 100 years, has killed hundreds of people and caused untold damage through massive flooding across the island. The State of Israel has already offered her full support by preparing to send teams of rescue personnel, emergency medical officers and water pollution specialists. In addition, Federation is partnering with The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to raise funds for the disaster relief efforts. (FYI -- JDC worked in Japan before the American entrance into World War II when the organization helped support Jewish refugees – including renowned religious leaders and yeshiva scholars – in Kobe, Japan who fled Hitler’s Europe. Today, several thousand Jews live and work in Japan.) In the spirit of tikkun olam (repairing the world) please click here to make your donation (100% percent of all donations will go to the rescue efforts.) 

At the start of the year, I received an article written by Dovid Efune in the Huffington Post from the president of one of Federation’s partner agencies. In the article, Mr. Efune shares a conversation he had with Great Britain's Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Rabbi Sacks said, “The challenge to a new generation of Jewish leaders is to think differently about the Jewish future, to stop thinking of ourselves as victims...Nowadays when you read about Jews, it is about anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, boycotts, Israel, 50-percent out-marriage rates. But this is not who we are, these are our challenges.”

Ever since reading the article I have been thinking about Rabbi Sacks’s comments. I admit I come from a generation where personal Jewish experiences (Jewish summer camp, youth group, Israel travel, minimal anti-Semitism) outweigh the stories from Jewish memory (blatant anti-Semitism, immigration, the Holocaust, founding of the State of Israel). We all come from different beginnings and I believe each of us is on our own personal Jewish journey.

As I have written before, now is the opportunity make Jewish life more dynamic, exciting, rewarding, and full of joys and celebration.  We can hold onto our Jewish memories, continue to provide Jewish experiences, and create a place and time that resonates and connects with our diverse population. To do this, we must literally transform our Jewish community.

Unfortunately, for many, it is easier to maintain the status quo.

So I have been thinking, what are the hurdles we need to overcome to get to where we want to be as a Jewish community?

• Can we all get on the same page? We have to create a shared common vision for our community. This is most difficult. People must “let go” of their own interests, and someone (or some group) has to lead the process or otherwise no change can be effectuated. We at Federation are ready to move.

• Do we have the “people power?” You must be willing to give the time, dedication, strength and resourcefulness to take on this reformation.

• Can we remove our “rose colored glasses” in the “Rose City”? Are we honest with ourselves? Are we attractive as an organized Jewish community to “today’s generation” and the “next generation”? What is it that we are/are not offering? How have we done over the past 10, 7, 3, 1 years? We cannot plan our course of action if we do not know where we are starting from. The truth can be painful.

• The “blame game” does not work. Instead of worrying about “who has done/not done what,” let us focus on what we can truly accomplish together. Rising tides raise all boats!

• Do we have the courage? We need partners who are ready for change! As in every organization, there are politics and impediments to change. At the risk of not sounding nice, for those unwilling to change, please step out of the way.

• How well can we communicate? At the end of the process we need to clearly, passionately, and effectively communicate and express our new vision for Jewish life!

Nanette Fridman, a non-profit consultant said, “Transformation is not for the faint of heart. To successfully transform any group, especially one that has a long history and continuity of donor families and/or volunteers, it requires honesty, vision, strength, courage, discipline, and excellent communications. If you are willing to manage the arduous process, deal with some headaches along the way and take a few short term hits, your organization can redefine, recreate and reintroduce itself to be current and relevant.”

This transformation effort is about us –- and our community. We must push the envelope and move forward -- including getting buy-in from you, sharing the process, and keeping you informed every step of the way. We can overcome any hurdle in our path.

Paraphrasing Rabbis Sacks, “We have failed to connect with the positives…so I challenge this generation of Jewish leaders and the generation after to think about Jewish life in a completely new way.”

Shabbat Shalom as our thoughts go out to those impacted by the earthquake and tsunami.



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