My Family’s Jewish Path—Powered by Federation

by Debbie Lieberman

 

As we round out the High Holidays, I find myself thinking about my family, our traditions, and passing down my heritage, history, and connections to my children and their children. As I reflect on my family’s Jewish story, it’s no surprise to me that The Minneapolis Jewish Federation continues to make an appearance.

For instance, when my sons were toddlers, I took them to visit my grandma in the Sholom Home (a Federation partner). I had always imagined my grandmother, her great-grandchildren on her knee, sharing stories of our family settling in North Dakota.

But my grandma could no longer remember the stories.

Thankfully, my family’s roots had been recorded and saved in the archives of the Upper Midwest Jewish Historical Society—another Federation partner.

When, several years later, my sons argued about attending Talmud Torah (also a Federation partner), I reminded them which student’s picture was still hanging on the school’s wall – their father’s.

Because of the Jewish education they received throughout their childhood here in Minneapolis, my sons inevitably wanted to experience Israel. When I couldn’t afford to send them, it wasn’t a problem: Taglit Birthright Israel was there. (As you may have guessed, Birthright is also supported by Federation.)

My sons are all college graduates now, but whatever Jewish path they decide to take, I have no doubt Federation will be there to enable this story to continue for my family—and yours.

 

Then and now: Debbie and her three sons

       

Five things we learned about completely reinventing Jewish life

On March 7, the first ever Harry Kay Leadership Summit presented Rabbi Mike Uram, who literally wrote the book on redefining the Jewish community. Next Generation Judaism: How College Students and Hillel Can Help Reinvent Jewish Organizations offers innovative strategies to keep the Jewish community relevant for the next generation, and Uram discussed his methods with the Twin Cities Jewish community at two events—a workshop for professionals at Jewish organizations and a keynote presentation open to the entire community.
Here, our top takeaways:

#1 We need a thesaurus.

Uram suggests moving away from the phrase “the Jewish community.” This one might be hard for us, but the point is valid: “Every time we use stock phrases like ‘the Jewish community,’ we make a mistake because we fail to acknowledge the complexity of Jewish communities,” Uram writes. “That mistake often leads Jewish organizations to adopt a “one-size-fits-all approach to trying to reach different types of Jews.”

 

#2 Network versus community.

Instead of a community, we should think of ourselves as a network—more transient, and able to shift as the needs of Jews in the Twin Cities change.

 

#3 More than planning programs or events, we need to build relationships.

Jewish organizations are always dreaming up fun and educational events to remind people about our vibrant Jewish community (see, there we go again with that word). But building relationships with the people who attend the events are more likely to make them feel good about Jewish life in the Twin Cities than immediately beginning to plan the next event.

 

#4 Keep doing “High Holiday” events…but do more “Passover seder” events.

Uram divides engagement into two models: the High Holiday model and the Seder model.
“The High Holiday model is authentically Jewish,” says Uram. “Huge public spectacles, thousands of people show up, there’s a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself.”
The Passover Seder model, according to Uram, allows smaller groups of people to customize what happens—because they are leading it. “Even though we’re not all together there’s a sense of belonging to something larger than yourself.”

#5 Instead of “affiliated” and “unaffiliated,” try “engagement” and “empowerment.”

Empowerment Jews are self-directed to seek out Jewish life. “They know all the acronyms,” says Uram. Engagement Jews feel just as Jewish, but they’re looking for ways to connect outside of institutional membership or affiliation.

 

Our copy of Next Generation Judaism is littered with Post-Its, and we’re already employing some of its strategies. We highly recommend it—you can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound (and we may have a few extra copies at Federation if you ask nicely).

 

 

Want more inspiration? View our Spring/Summer 2018 issue of Minneapolis Jewish Life.

Already feeling inspired? Power Jewish life with a donation to the 2018 Community Campaign (it ends this week!)

Thinking about Oma

Dear Minneapolis community,

Much to the delight of the camp-bound teen and tween in my household, yesterday marked the end of the school year. The final assignment my son had to submit before calling it quits on the academic year was the report associated with his genealogy project. Each member of the class had to learn and write about an ancestor who had immigrated to the United States. My son selected my Oma, Hanna Moller.

Helping with the research for this project was a wonderful experience for both of us, but particularly for me. Oma has only been gone for eight years, but reconnecting with her courage, her elegance and her story which included a narrow escape

This plaque hangs in my office to remind me of Oma, and her impactful contributions to the Jewish community.

from Nazi tyranny reminded me not only of my love and respect for her but why my colleagues and I show up for work each day.

 

I thought of Oma at the Board of Directors meeting of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) this week when I heard a wonderful presentation about the Secure Community Network, a JFNA funded program which helps JCRCs around the country protect Jewish individuals and institutions by providing up-to-the-minute security assessments and tools to employ in this critical endeavor.  I thought of Oma this week when I attended P’Chachka, an annual event organized by Rimon, the Jewish Arts Council which brings such richness to our community’s cultural life – something about which Oma cared so deeply.  And I thought of Oma just a few hours ago, as I watched the teens from Yachad’s amazing Witness Theatre Program perform at St. Paul’s city hall – at the invitation of the Deputy Mayor, to honor and memorialize victims of genocide.

While thinking of Oma during all of these experiences, I confess that I was thinking about you. Without the support of Federation’s donors, none of these programs would be possible. The breadth and depth of what is powered by contributions to Federation are inspiring. Our 2018 campaign ends in three weeks.  We have much work to do but are poised to have a very successful outcome. We need the help of each and every one of you.  We need you to invest in our community’s future. The Genealogy project reminded me why this work is so important. So I invite you to think about your own Oma, your Bubbie, your Nana or Safta or whatever else you may have called her, and join me in helping out community be the best it can be.

Shabbat Shalom,

My thoughts on the shamash

When we learn the story of Chanukah, we are taught about the shamash—the “helper” candle. We use this extra light to light all the candles. Though it does some pretty heavy lifting, it isn’t the star of the show—and I like to think it prefers it that way.

Of course, I liken Federation to our community’s shamash. We stand proudly, ready to bring light to partner agencies, our community, and Jewish communities around the world.

The shamash is part of the Chanukah menorah because Chanukah candles are meant to be enjoyed, not do the work of lighting the other candles. Our partner agencies, too, have a specific purpose: caring for the needy, enriching our community, and championing Jewish identity. As their shamash, we empower them to do this crucial work and fill gaps in community opportunities.

As we give light, our light shines a bit brighter as well. Our programming is designed to inspire the next generation of Jewish communal and nonprofit leaders; leaders who will use their skills to continue to keep the shamash flame burning bright. Federation does this in many tangible ways, Yesod, the Harry Kay Leadership Institute, and Yachad are three. But we’re also so excited to host the first annual Harry Kay Alumni Network Leadership Institute featuring Jewish-community powerhouse Rabbi Michael Uram.

But back to Chanukah, and the shamash, and bear with me, because here the metaphor goes off book a bit—the shamash has been the same for thousands of years, serving the same purpose. When the shape of the menorah changed, it always adapted to make room for the shamash.

This is not the case with Federation—nor should it be.

When the philanthropic landscape changes, when the community changes, we must change as well. This year, we’re rethinking two major components of our fundraising: the Community Campaign and Super Sunday. (Check out this amazing video by Rhonda Stein and Stuart Goldenberg about the changes!)

After many years of planning, we’ve shortened our campaign to six months, from January to June. Our hope is to make the process of donating to and volunteering with Federation a better one.

As for Super Sunday, we’re acknowledging that telethons are no longer the fundraising powerhouse they once were. We’re looking to celebrate our volunteers, donors, and the community—not ask them to work more. To that end, we dreamed up Super Funday, a FREE celebration.

Bring your family and join us January 14, from 1 to 5 pm at Punch Bowl Social to have fun, be inspired, and rediscover what Federation is all about—community.

Shabbat Shalom,

 

 

 

 

 

THANK YOU MINNEAPOLIS

Your generous donations to the 2017 Community Campaign totaled almost $9.3 million dollars. 

THANK YOU. 
For your dedication to building community. For caring for Jews in Minneapolis, Israel, and more than 70 countries around the world.
You continue to change lives. 

You rekindled their love of traditions

Learning to “make” Shabbat through Hillel
Benjie Kaplan, the Executive Director of Hillel at the University of Minnesota, explains that there are between 80-100 students who attend Shabbat on campus each Friday.

On the third Friday of every month, a few of the students volunteer to host Shabbat for these 80 students in their dorms or apartments. Hillel gives them songbooks, candles, and challah, and students get reimbursed for their grocery receipts.

Young adults know how to attend Shabbat, but they generally don’t know how to make Shabbat. Hillel is giving our kids a venue to figure out how to create their own Jewish homes.

There’s something so beautiful about going off to college and unexpectedly finding Shabbat is part of one’s education, too. You make that happen.

 

Donate Today.

Donate Today

 

 

 

Donate Today

 

Because of you–he got to be a kid today

 

The Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and Minnesota Hillel, through Partnership2Gether, sent a group of college students to Israel over spring break this March for an “alternative spring break” of volunteering and learning.

A much richer experience than a typical Birthright or tourist-oriented visit to Israel, Alternative Spring Break offers students the opportunity to see Israel “off the beaten path,” providing immersive experiences interacting with Israelis from all walks of life.

This is a wonderful example of how what we do gives our community a richer and more beneficial understanding of our people and our connection to the land and the modern nation of Israel—and perhaps even a greater Jewish self-awareness. In fact, students report feeling a strong sense of connection to and pride in their community and to Israel after experiences like this.

Alternative spring break is a week full of life-changing moments; here’s a taste from 2017 participant Eli Singer.

On Tuesday, we drove into South Tel Aviv, a slum located within the “party city” that we all know and love. There we learned about Elifelet, an organization providing nursery school and childcare to Sudanese and Eritrean refugee children. These families come to South Tel Aviv as undocumented workers to escape persecution in their own countries.

After learning about the organization, we went to a dingy, second-story apartment housing one of the nurseries. There, we were each paired with a child to play with at a park across the street. I was paired with a boy named Yafet who was incredibly energetic and intelligent and the oldest boy of the group.

It was hard to see their living conditions, but we could tell that even taking these kids out for an hour totally changed their moods and allowed them to forget about their extremely difficult lives and just be kids.  

This trip has meant so much—it exposed me to what Israel is actually like. While Birthright shows tourists the best and most famous aspects of the country, this trip allowed me to see that the country I thought to be nearly perfect actually has many real flaws and issues. It was absolutely inspiring to learn about these issues and see the organizations and individuals striving to make them better.

 

Donate Today.

This is what we do.

Just a few months ago, Odelia and Ohad Brat celebrated one of the happiest occasions of their lives: their son’s bar mitzvah. They’ll never forget when he received his brand-new tefillin—special leather boxes worn during prayer—from his beloved grandparents. Everyone was so filled with pride.

And they’ll never forget grabbing those tefillin as they and their six children quickly fled their home. A raging fire was only minutes away. So they took what was most precious to them.

It was a smart split-second decision. Flames destroyed much of the Brat family house. The entire upstairs was charred. When the family returned, they barely recognized what used to be their home.

The Brats did make one unlikely discovery, though. A bank tin, badly burned. Inside was the money one of their sons had earned mowing lawns for neighbors. It was dirty and damp, but it was there.

It’s a symbol for what it will take to rebuild their home and their lives. It’s not going to happen overnight. But they have each other. And they have Federation partner The Jewish Agency for Israel, which is delivering grants of $1,000 to families across Israel who lost everything in the fires.

With the grant, the Brats are able to buy clothing, medicine and other essentials for their large family. Odelia says that the care, concern, and support they’ve received from The Jewish Agency has left her speechless.


People just like us, our children, our parents or grandparents, desperately need our help. Your gift to Federation removes obstacles. You bridge gaps. A hot meal is delivered to a homebound elderly person. An emergency loan feeds a struggling family. A bus brings a child to camp. A ramp opens up Jewish life for a disabled person.

People just like us, our children, our parents or grandparents, desperately need our help. Your gift to Federation removes obstacles. It bridges gaps. It delivers a hot meal to a homebound elderly person. It feeds a struggling family. It brings a child to camp. It allows a disabled person to lead a  vibrant Jewish life.

Your gift makes this possible. Please give generously so we can continue doing this important work.

DONATE TODAY

 

 

Four Questions with David Orbuch

From the Desk of David Orbuch, President

Long journeys: as Jews, we know a little something about them. And while we may love to kvetch along the way, there’s something else we’re well versed in: triumphant endings.

Like the Jews wandering through the desert, our Federation has been on a bit of a journey. But unlike the wandering Jews, we’re not lost. And now that we have officially hired Jim Cohen as our Chief Executive Officer, our path is even clearer. Jim will join us officially on May 15, and we couldn’t be more excited.

Passover is one of my favorite times of the year. I hope this Pesach found you at a Seder table filled with people you love, honoring the beloved traditions of our people and celebrating the end of long journeys old and new. As we all know, Pesach isn’t complete without four questions and four answers. Here are Federations:

    1. Can you tell me more about our CEO?
      Jim Cohen comes to our Federation having served as CEO of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan, and Darien for the past four years. Prior to a career in Jewish communal service, Jim served as Assistant Secretary of the University for International Affairs at Yale University and before that, as a career diplomat in the Foreign Service of the United States Department of State.I am incredibly excited about the unique skills Jim brings to Minneapolis. His experience has equipped him to build relationships, forge alliances, and carry out strategic plans. And his recent tenure at a Federation means he knows the business—its challenges and its inherent strengths.While Jim arrives in May, his wife Lisa and their two school-aged children, Jonathan and Dahlia, will follow in August.
    2. What is Federation’s role in keeping our community safe?
      The sensitive nature of security precludes us from sharing too many details, but know that the work behind the scenes is vigilant and focused.For two years, the Minneapolis and St. Paul Federations have worked with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC) to enhance security and combat the rise of anti-Semitism. Outside of these efforts, JCRC plays a primary and invaluable role in community security—and relies on your support to Federation.Your support of Federation also funds the Secure Community Network (SCN), a dedicated homeland security initiative on behalf of the American Jewish community. SCN provides trainings and helps implement security staff and plans in communities.
    3. What are you doing to prepare the next generation of Jews?
      Recent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity on college campuses inspired Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy and the Israel Center to work with Yachad (Jewish learning for teens, funded by Minneapolis Jewish Federation), Hillel, and the National Council of Jewish Women to present Preparing U, a timely and important program for high school students and their parents. Hillel students spoke candidly with participants about their experiences being Jewish on campus, and Hillel director Benjie Kaplan gave parents insight into what their kids might encounter when they head off to college as well as tools to advocate for Israel.
    4. How are you advancing leadership development?
      At the end of last year, Minneapolis Jewish Federation introduced Yesod, a nine-week executive leadership program for seasoned leaders in our community. Hebrew University’s Melton School developed Yesod’s curriculum, and the program is facilitated by local veteran educator Meryll Page. Take a peek at our upcoming issue of Minneapolis Jewish Life to read more about Yesod.

Chag Pesach sameach,

 

 

David Orbuch
President

P.S. We need your ongoing help to continue our journey to freedom. If you have not given, a gift of $100 can provide a week of hot, kosher meals to a local homebound senior, while $1,500 can provide a scholarship to a Minneapolis child to attend two weeks of life-changing Jewish camp. Please give generously.

If you have given, thank you. Our community’s journey is safer because of you.