Time Flies When Having Fun

Time Flies When Having Fun

The Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations are hosting a webinar with President Barack Obama TODAY at 11:10 a.m. PT. This is an opportunity for the President to address the North American Jewish community on the Iran agreement. To join the webcast at 11:10 a.m. please click here.  

Hard to believe I will be celebrating my fifth anniversary as the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation on September 1. Some days I feel like I just arrived while other days feel like I have been here for much longer. For those native Portlanders and locals (people who have been here 25 years or more), you have watched this community change and grow. At the same time, for us “newbies,” Portland is that beautiful city with an incredible quality of life and an emphasis on work/life balance, family and the great outdoors.

The Jewish Federation is very proud of its accomplishments over the past five years. We have worked hard to respond to voices in our community and continue to fill gaps in service. In fact, here are many of the successes YOU helped create since 2010:

  • The Jewish Federation often measures itself on the Annual Campaign. But we tend to forget the aggregate of our campaign. In the past five years, YOU contributed over $18 million to the Jewish Federation– all for programs and services (not for capital projects) locally and overseas. THANK YOU!
  • Increased the number of Federation-funded programs and initiatives from 39 to 59.
  • Between 2010-2015, funding in our priority areas has grown, including many new initiatives:
    • Jewish Education – 29% increase in funding
    • Jewish Culture and Engagement – 7% increase in funding
    • Building Jewish Identity – 48% increase in funding
    • Social Services – 2% increase in funding
    • Israel and Overseas –8% increase in funding
  • Created an incredible four-day Food for Thought Festival that brought out thousands of Jews for a fun, eclectic cadre of programs/authors/speakers that also helped benefit the Oregon Food Bank.
  • Experimented with $300,000 in Community Impact Grants that funded 11 different initiatives. Several of those programs continue to this day.
  • The Jewish Federation raised over $195,000 in emergency funds for disaster campaigns and in support of Israel. These included Japan tsunami, Houston floods, Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan, and, sadly, Israel emergency efforts.
  • The Jewish Federation budget has grown by only 2% over this time period and every year has received a clean audit.
  • Reconfigured our team to include professionals focused on engagement/outreach, Jewish educational resources, and interfaith work.

In addition, here is a sampling of new initiatives we have funded since 2010:

  • One Happy Camper – incentive grants for first-time Jewish overnight campers
  • Jewish Right Start – incentive grants for new families enrolling in a Jewish pre-school
  • Expansion of PJ Library to age 11 and emphasis on community-wide programming
  • GrapeVine – online calendar of events
  • Good Deeds Day – volunteer day where over 3,500 people have participated since 2011 – and the Portland Mitzvah Network
  • A. Victor and Betty Rosenfeld Young Leadership Development Program
  • Jewish Youth Group Funding – scholarships for teen participation at Jewish youth group conventions and Shabbatons
  • Shaliach/shlicha from Israel
  • Seder for the Jewish community on the coast (in partnership with BB Camp)
  • Boy Scout Troop #739 (in partnership with Kollel)

Of course not everything goes as planned. In January 2011, the Jewish Review printed its final edition. Unfortunately, due to changes in the newspaper industry and major financial losses for many years, we needed to shut down the newspaper. Yet, although not a bi-monthly newspaper, the Oregon Jewish Life monthly magazine captures the essence of Jewish life in Portland and brings to light many creative and talented people.

And, there is the vision of Jewish Portland Tomorrow. The concept brought to light communal concerns on how our Jewish community operates today. As expected, there was tremendous push back. I am excited to see that over time there is a reexamination of our community and a greater willingness to change. One such example is the recent merger of Jewish Family and Child Service into Cedar Sinai Park, which the Jewish Federation helped to facilitate.

To do all of these things takes leadership and the drive to “do different” – understanding that you always have the risk of failure. As anyone who is in a leadership position will tell you, it takes courage to do what you believe is right. It takes courage to say things others may not be willing to say. And it takes courage to dream big and perhaps fail -- otherwise real change will not occur. I am proud that the Jewish Federation accepts that leadership role.

Moreover, as my colleague at the Jewish Federation of Columbus recently wrote, “It is hard when the needs are so great and varied community members often judge the value of Federation by whether the organization has met their individual expectations rather than the collective need.” I hope you appreciate the work we are doing on behalf of our entire Jewish community. I recognize that this work may not always be of interest or importance to you personally, but it does meet the needs of others. Remember, it is Federation's goal to enhance Jewish experiences that will strengthen our Jewish future. 

Because of YOU, I believe the Jewish quality of life in our community is getting better and better. This would not be possible without the incredible volunteer leaders and the professional team at the Jewish Federation. Their dedication and determination is second to none. Plus, our community is fortunate to have wonderful Jewish organizations and synagogues, skilled volunteer leaders, dedicated communal professionals, and talented rabbis. So, as I reflect on the past five years, I recognize that I am the one who has been blessed by the opportunity to be a part of this vibrant community.

As the old adage goes, “Time flies when you are having fun.” These past five years have whizzed by. I am proud of what WE have accomplished! And I am even more excited about partnering with you and our Jewish community in the years to come to build an even stronger collective future.

Shabbat shalom.



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