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

       

How the Jewish Community Foundation Builds Community

by Alene G. Sussman

 

A recent article and counterpoint in the StarTribune discussed the question of “What are community foundations doing to help build community?” As a Federation donor, you are already familiar with the community impact our Federation has through its annual campaign, allocations and programming, but did you know that our community has its own foundation, the Jewish Community Foundation of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation (JCF)?

The JCF strengthens our community and helps build a better world through tikkun olam. As one of the largest vehicles for Jewish charitable giving in the Upper Midwest, the JCF provides the long-term financial underpinnings that ensure a strong, sustainable and vibrant community. The JCF currently manages and administers more than $124 million in assets for more than 1,000 fund holders, consisting of individuals, families, and Jewish organizations in our community. All while delivering market-comparable returns and by steering our competitive administrative fees back into the Jewish community – a type of double mitzvah!  The JCF is, by far, the largest and most active charitable asset that focuses on Jewish community and life in the Twin Cities.

For over 40 years, the JCF has been helping and partnering with fund holders from all walks of life to build lasting legacies as philanthropists through self-directed, tax-efficient charitable funds created at the JCF. These funds are the vehicles through which our fund holders give to the charities they care about today, into the future, and after they are gone. Importantly, we also serve as a conduit or match-maker between our fund holders’ charitable interests and the critical needs in our Jewish community.

Over the past five years alone, the JCF has partnered with our fund holders to send more than $31 million to organizations and causes around the world that are near-and-dear to their hearts and are consistent with the charitable mission of Federation. In fiscal year 2016-2017, we helped them distribute more than $12 million in grants to a variety of Jewish and non-Jewish nonprofits.

So, to answer the questions posed in the StarTribune’s article, here is how our JCF is helping build community:

  • Giving. Through helping our fund holders give to causes through a Jewish lens – here in our local community and globally;
  • Connecting. Leveraging over 90 years of expertise to provide research on the local and global Jewish community, and the institutions that they are comprised of, to help our donors connect to the causes they most deeply about;
  • Sustaining. Partnering with a dozen local Jewish organizations to manage and grow their endowment dollars to help sustain them well-into the future for our grandchildren, and their grandchildren’s children.
  • Impacting. Providing opportunities for individuals, families and other groups of people to give independently or to come together to give collectively, including towards the current needs of our local Jewish organizations.
  • Growing. Always striving to be the best foundation we can be and to provide new services for our fund holders, including growing as a convener, collaborator, innovator, and supporter of our fund holders, their families, and our local and global organizations.

Why do donors open a fund with our JCF instead of opening one at a national financial institution? Our donors choose the JCF because of our presence in the community. Because they want to work with a foundation that is just as committed to our community as our donors are. They trust our JCF staff to provide them with beneficial advice grounded in the JCF’s and Federation’s experience, expertise, and connection to this community, and the greater global Jewish community. Our donors know that we have our Jewish community’s best interests at heart in everything that we do.

This is how our JCF is helping build community.

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Alene G. Sussman
Jewish Community Foundation Director

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,

 

 

 

 

 

Joy Infusion

Growing up in New York, I remember the local radio station’s annual announcement: Alternate side of the street parking regulations are suspended today for Rejoicing in the Torah. The translation of Simchat Torah, the holiday we celebrate at the end of this week, brought a smile to my face and infused a little bit of joy into the incredibly mundane task of worrying about parking your car legally.

Infusing joy into the work we do at Federation is a much simpler task. As Laura Aknin of Simon Fraser University noted in 2013, “The psychological reward experienced from helping others is deeply ingrained in human nature.” In other words, the ancient adage that it is better to give than to receive has been given scientific back-up. And since the Federation system helps more Jews than any other organization on Earth, we have an awful lot to feel good about.

That sounds like a cause for celebration.

In that spirit, we are making some changes not only to the ebb and flow of our annual campaign season, but also to campaign activities for the coming year.  Rather than inundate the community with endless campaigning and calling, (and calling, and calling) we are going to be spending the fall conversing with and listening to our donors.  We want to hear more about your dreams and aspirations for the community and we want to share with you our vision and plans.

The campaign will then begin in earnest early in 2018, but with a twist: say goodbye to Super Sunday.

That’s right, we are replacing Super Sunday with Super FUNDAY! This January, instead of using the traditional model of Jewish guilt to raise funds, we are going to throw a party, at which we will celebrate our amazing community, hear about a few of the amazing things powered by Federation’s funds, launch a text campaign for many of our newer and younger donors—and have a grand time while doing it.

Keep an eye out for more information on Super Funday.  Details will be available shortly.  With far too much bad news scrolling across our screens on a nightly basis, I am very much looking forward to accentuating the positive and spreading the joy.

Chag Sameach,

 

 

Hurricane Harvey: Impact Stories

Sunshine Amid the Clouds: Federation Provides Critical Childcare to Houston Storm Victims

Children at Hurricane Harvey Camp

Before Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, Alyson and Daniel had just moved back into their new house after repairing wreckage caused by a burst pipe. That turned out to be just the beginning of their water-related woes — the rain and flooding from the hurricane filled their home with two and a half feet of water. But the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston was on the scene to provide Alyson and Daniel with basic supplies and people to help them clean their home and begin the recovery process.

Childcare was their most critical need. The Jewish community came through with a safe place to send their four-year-old twins while Alyson and Dan tried to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. The Federation-funded Hurricane Harvey Camp — set up at Congregation Emanu El, in conjunction with the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center and the Union for Reform Judaism’s Greene Family Camp.  It provided them and hundreds of other families with desperately-needed childcare, meals, snacks, and, above all, a secure location for their kids amid the post-hurricane chaos.

“This has shown me the strength of the Jewish community,” said Alyson. “When things are really rough, it isn’t just talk.” And while some may think about leaving Houston, for Alyson and Dan the storm has had the opposite effect. “How can you leave a community when you feel so loved and supported?”

 

 

 

Facing Unexpected Trauma: One Family’s Journey to Recovery from Harvey

Neighborhood devastation

The home Judi and Roger shared with their four sons had never been flooded before—neither had their street—and they were unprepared for just how quickly the effects of Hurricane Harvey would devastate their homes and lives. Before they even had a chance to pack a change of clothes, the family found themselves huddled on a bed, watching in disbelief as the water rushed in around them. Two of the couple’s four sons were with their grandparents that night, but the rest of the family found themselves surrounded by water and unsure of what was next or how to get to safety.

It was too late to get to the roof of their one-story house, so when their neighbors offered them a room on their second floor, Roger put his 7-year-old son on his shoulders and they all waded outside through waist-deep water.

“We were on our neighbor’s second floor for three days,” Judi recounted. All four of them, along with two dogs, using a child’s bedroom as a shelter, with their hosts in the room next door and a foot of water on the first floor. Rather than attempt evacuation, they decided it would be safer and more comfortable to stay put.

Out on the street, the water current was so strong that Judi could barely get to her house to try to salvage a few things. When she finally managed to get inside, she grabbed her laptop and a few other items. But virtually everything the family owned was destroyed.

The Jewish Federation and the Jewish community came through with the help they needed. Meals arrived, and volunteers showed up to help them sort through their belongings. The ERJCC handed out supplies and Target gift cards. Federation provided emergency money to get them through the weekend, no questions asked. Volunteers from Federation’s Young Leadership department came to help them pack up. “When everyone else had left, they stayed and continued to help us. Even when I said no, other people need help more, they still sent help. They knew I needed it.”

But for Judi and her family, the most valuable service the Jewish community provided was trauma counseling.

“Jewish Family Service set up shop at the ERJCC, and provided someone who was there to listen when I really needed it. I could break down because they were there to help.” A therapist herself, Judi has been moved by the support offered to her family. “It’s not easy for me to ask for help — I’m used to giving it. It’s been a humbling experience,” she said.

“We’re so fortunate to have this community. The Houston Jewish community will survive this and come back stronger.”

 

Who else are we helping? Check out the numbers…

 

Help us continue to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Donate here.

 

 

 

What Harvey Reminded Me

The Weather Channel has been on at my house much more than usual lately, and I suspect our household is not unique. The weather-related tragedies which have been unfolding in Texas and which are, unfortunately, in store for tens of thousands of Floridians, have left us heartbroken. That said, I have learned some valuable lessons from Hurricane Harvey, or perhaps, these lessons have been reinforced in my mind:

As Aaron Burr’s character laments in Act I of Hamilton, “Life doesn’t discriminate from the sinners and the saints….it takes and it takes.” If a natural disaster teaches us nothing else, it reminds us that we are all in this together. Hurricanes don’t skip the houses bearing mezuzot in Haggadah-like fashion, nor do they ask people to which synagogue they belong before destroying their home. I wonder if Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who as reported by The Jerusalem Post, had seen any of the terrible images from flood-devastated areas before he called out reform Jews for “denying more than Holocaust deniers.” We are indeed fortunate to live in a community which truly respects the value of each and every human being and of each and every Jew. And we are doubly fortunate to have a JCRC in our community which sheds light on statements such as those of Rabbi Amar, which seek to divide us rather than uplift us together. (See JCRC website for their rebuke of Rabbi Amar’s comments and the September 6 Jerusalem Post article.)

The other lesson hurricane season has reinforced for me is the value and nimbleness of the Federation system. Thanks to Houston Jewish Federation, and with the millions of dollars the system has already raised to send to Houston, critical needs in the Jewish community post-hurricane were identified quickly and money began flowing almost immediately. With a day school completely destroyed, and several congregations still under water, this immediate help was crucial. I am proud that the Federation system was able once again to rise the occasion.

Additionally, the work being done on behalf of those struggling in Houston is an excellent example of the efficacy of pooling resources.  I am delighted that we are moving forward with The Jewish Metropolitan Council–a body made up of lay leaders from Minneapolis and St. Paul, charged with forging deeper cooperation and partnership. In fact, we are currently seeking nominations for members of the Council. Click here to learn more and apply. You will be hearing more about the Council in the months to come.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy like Harvey (or Irma) to remind us of these lessons, but admittedly, sometimes we all need a little reminding.

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.