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. 

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.

30 years after Glienicke Bridge

Rachel Danziger Sharansky

In case you missed it, this moving piece was written by the daughter of Natan Sharansky, CEO of our partner The Jewish Agency for Israel and face of the modern day Exodus— an inspiring reminder of the human impact of your Federation support.

As my parents’ daughter, I am forever aware that I owe my existence to the people who yelled with my mother. I wouldn’t be here today if you, the Jews of the world, wouldn’t have opened your hearts and your homes and your purses. You marched in rallies, sent letters to your representatives, paid my mother’s tickets as she flew from one demonstration to another. You hosted her. You encouraged her. Your yells broke through the Iron Curtain. They broke into my father’s cell long before they broke him out of it. And they broke into my inner geography, where they ring and echo to this day.”

P2G Update: Synagogue via Skype, JWRP visits Rehovot

Have you met our sister? It’s true, Minneapolis has a sister city in Israel: the beautiful town of Rehovot! Through this Partnership2Gether initiative, Minneapolis is strengthening a connection to Israel and building a stronger sense of Jewish peoplehood. Here are just a few recent stories of partnership, from Darchei Noam and  the #MOMentum mission, and click here to learn more about Partnership2Gether (and make sure to like us on Facebook!)

Thanks to technology, we are able to bring two synagogues, with a deep love of learning, together.

Beginning November 17, Congregation Darchei Noam in St. Louis Park will begin simultaneous study sessions with synagogue The Berman Shul in Rehovot, Israel.

The six classes will be held on Tuesday evenings, the Minneapolis group meets at Darchei Noam at 7PM and on Sundays at 11AM. The following Sunday the groups will gather via Skype in Minnesota and Israel to discuss what they learned and share insights.

These classes are free and open to the community. The schedule is below, and we hope to see you there!

  • Amos – NOV 17th | Sunday Skype discussion on NOV 22nd
  • Hosea – DEC 15th | Sunday Skype discussion on DEC 20th
  • Micah (Micheas) – FEB 9th | Sunday Skype discussion on FEB 14th
  • Habakkuk and Zephaniah – MARCH 8th | Sunday Skype discussion on MAR 13th
  • Obadiah – MAY 17th | Sunday Skype discussion on MAY 23rd
  • Haggai and Zechariah – JUNE 14th | Sunday Skype discussion on JUN 19th

For more information, contact:

Congregation Darchei Noam
2950 Joppa Ave. S. at Minnetonka Blvd. | 952-452-8476
DarcheiNoamMN@yahoo.com | www.DarcheiNoamMN.org


Minneapolis women visit Rehovot!

The #‎Momentummn‬ delegation of the‪#‎MOMentumtrips‬ of women visited Rehovot on Tuesday, October 27th as a part of our Partnership2Gether program through the municipality of Rehovot, the Jewish Agency and the Minneapolis Jewish Federation.

The visit was hosted and sponsored by Rehovot’s Deputy Mayor, Zohar Blum, and David Ashkenazi, Rehovot’s Chief of Staff and Head of Foreign Relations Department.

The group spent the day touring the city (Weisman Institute and the Ayalon Institute), visiting kindergartens and early childhood care facilities in Kiryat Moshe as well as a little bit of shopping.

12193529_842920682481513_824497858630372546_n

The highlight of the visit was dinner at the Minkov Citrus Orchard Museum along with Rehovot members of the partnership’s Steering Committee which is Co-Chaired by Dr. Yoram Blachar.

The meeting between members of the Steering Committee and the women from the Minneapolis community was successful, exciting and left a taste and desire for further development of the relationship.

Fun fact: Melanie Ginsburg, a MASA Israel student from Minneapolis on a Teachers Fellows program in Rehovot, spoke with the group while they were there about how Federation supports Masa (which is also a Jewish Agency for Israel program), and about what she is doing in Rehovot.

Dozens of members of the Minneapolis Jewish community are scheduled to visit Rehovot in the upcoming months to continue establishing relationships and friendships with the residents of Rehovot.

 

Conversation with Ahava Tomer

Below is a terribly sad and moving portrait of a recipient of support from the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Fund for the Victims of Terror. With distance and through media we sometimes forget the real people behind the stories.

Thanks go to several of our partners in Israel, who not only visited the victims but shared these stories with us while juggling everything else that they do. Trying moments like these remind us of our  incredible mission and the truly exceptional and warm colleagues who deliver that mission in Israel and around the world. We have many hands working around the clock to bring what is going on in Israel a little closer to our community around the world.

JAFI

Jewish Agency representatives met Ahava Tomer outside the ICU at the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. She has hardly left the place ever since her son, Yonatan, was rushed there two days ago after being stabbed numerous times by a terrorist. She is not allowed to enter and see him often, but she said Yonatan is already doing better and calls her on his cell phone from inside the ICU room. He is laying in a bed near Nadav— a 13-year-old boy who was critically wounded in the same attack.

Ahava said her son was at her bedside every day at the hospital three months ago when she underwent surgery to address a disability she has suffered from since contracting polio as a baby. Now he is hospitalized just down the hall from the ICU where she received treatment and she can’t believe she is back.

She proudly described how Yonatan, who is the youngest of her 11 children, saved many lives during the attack when he shouted “terrorist, terrorist,” and yelled at a little girl to hide in a building. The girl’s father has since called Ahava weeping, and thanking her son for saving his daughter’s life.

Ahava recounted the day of the attack, saying that Yonatan was supposed to come back home from synagogue. When she heard ambulances outside, she tried calling him on the phone but he didn’t answer. She grew more and more frantic, calling him to no avail until a stranger answered the phone, telling her that her son had gotten a scratch and was in the hospital. It took Ahava several hours to get to the hospital since the roads were all blocked. When she finally got there and saw her son in the ICU bed she couldn’t believe it was him and broke down crying.

As she was sitting outside of the ICU room, she noticed that there was an Arab woman sitting across from her. Only later did Ahava realize that this was the mother of the terrorist who had attacked her son and was being treated in a bed right near Yonatan and Nadav — the other victim. After making a request to the staff, the terrorist was moved to another room.

Ahava, who received an emergency grant from The Fund for the Victims of Terror, is in desperate need of the financial assistance. Her husband is also handicapped and since the day of the attack hasn’t been physically able to visit the hospital. The family doesn’t own a car, so in order to come to the hospital she needs to get rides from neighbors and friends. Ahava plans on using the money from The Fund to help Yonatan while he is in the hospital by getting him a decent pair of pajamas and slippers to wear.

“It is very special that there are people around the world that care about someone like me, may I never need such a gift in the future,” Ahava said. “I want to say not just ‘thank you,’ but ‘a thousand thanks’ — I wish health to all those who gave and that may we never need such gifts in the future!”

** Important Note: Everyone mentioned is a real person. We have used aliases to give the family some measure of privacy during these trying times.

Because of your gift, victims of the horrifying terrorist attacks happening throughout Israel will receive assistance quickly—often within 24 hours—so they can start the process of healing.

DONATE TODAY