Am Echad…One People…One Community

Remarks by President & CEO Matthew C. Levin at the 2018 Annual Meeting

Delivered at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County Annual Meeting, “A Year to Celebrate. A Future to Imagine,” on April 24, 2018.

It’s hard to believe that this is the sixth year I’ve had the honor to come before you at an annual meeting. The energy in this room is as invigorating, and the dedication as palpable, as it was the first time I stood here.

Tonight I have the privilege of speaking at the crest of continued impressive trends in our revenue sources, our impact, and our preparations for the future. We indeed have had a year to celebrate!

Of course, a CEO is only as effective as his lay partners.

And these past two years I’ve had the incredible good fortune to work with our beloved Anne Jacobson. Many people strive to lead by example, but Anne has taken it to a whole new level.

And from our deep leadership bench, we’ve called up the wise and multitalented Arthur Goldberg as our new chair. Arthur, I look forward to how much we are certain to accomplish with you at the helm.

I’m also thrilled the dynamic Larry Feldman will continue in a pivotal role as financial resource development chair. His leadership during three years as campaign chair moved us to change up the pace, growth and scope of our campaign. Larry used his business acumen to make the campaign more effective and inclusive of the entire community. He was an extraordinary ambassador for us nationally and around the world. He dedicated countless hours to our Federation and we look forward to his continued impact on this organization in his new role.

And we welcome longtime leader Debra Halperin as our new campaign chair.

A special welcome to our past board chairs here tonight. Your continued engagement is so important to our Federation’s enduring strength and vitality.

Unfortunately this past year we lost four leaders and philanthropists whose memory will always inspire us.

Dick Siemens, Ruth Coleman, Martin Stein and Ruth Weinberger were true pioneers of our Jewish community and this Federation. Their gifts and their vision were instrumental in getting to where we stand today. We miss them dearly.

Of course, we could never do what we do – and do it so well – without our remarkable staff. With good reason, our senior professional staff is the envy of other CEOs.

And I couldn’t be more proud of our entire staff. Your dedication and support of our mission drive our success throughout all areas of the Federation.

I also acknowledge my professional colleagues and their lay leaders here with us from our agencies and schools. Our growing focused, creative partnerships are critical to the impact we make for those who need us, and they are key to our future.

To our rabbis and synagogue leaders - we have no more important partners in strengthening this vibrant, diverse Jewish community.

And deepest thanks to our division, committee and event chairs - and to all of you whose time, generosity and dedication have made this year one to celebrate.

Finally, I recognize the stellar work of our women’s philanthropy, with its Chair, April Leavy, and Campaign Chair, Jill Rose. With Jill and Karen Dern, we’re in for another great term.

Those of you familiar with other Jewish communities know that each one develops its own character. And in this we are no exception.

We are, however, absolutely exceptional in the engagement and unity we’ve developed amid our Jewish diversity.

Just this year, with the opening of Katz Yeshiva High School, we became the only community with multiple, diverse Jewish preschools, elementary and high schools on one campus.

And let’s not forget our first community-wide Purim Carnival that brought 2,000 people – including many first time visitors – to celebrate here on our campus.

Over the past few years, our community has become the embodiment of Am Echad… One People…One Community. This past year we saw this manifest in many remarkable ways. Let me remind you of just a few.

Last fall, as powerful storms ravaged Florida, Houston and vulnerable islands, we came together immediately in a massive joint response. Our Federation collaborated with incredible leadership from Hands on Tzedakah, my friend and partner Ron Gallatin, and the extraordinary Summer Faerman, our rabbis and agencies.

This Jewish community raised millions of dollars in aid, and hundreds of volunteers mounted highly coordinated, hands-on efforts.

And, as always, our unique Rabbi Josh Broide with our Deborah and Larry D. Silver Center for Jewish Engagement was pivotal in bringing our synagogues and agencies together.

In November, 82 of us embarked on our Spirit of Israel 2017 Community Mission.

With new friends and old, we saw Israel through a new lens. Sharing a rich array of experiences, we proved again that the best place to unite and strengthen this community is in our homeland.

Our brand new Judi and Allan Schuman center for Israel engagement was instrumental in bringing us to Israel and in projects that brought Israel to us.

About 600 of us explored some of Israel’s latest high-tech contributions at Imagination Israel.

And just last week, thousands of us joyously celebrated Israel’s 70th birthday at Mizner Park.

And when twelve hundred of us gathered to hear Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, he said loud and clear: “Your community is one of both great diversity and great strength. It is a shining example to the Jewish world. The world has to become like this community.”

Our reputation continues to gain notice well beyond this community. We were honored to be one of only three U.S. communities to host seven members of the Knesset looking to build stronger relationships with the Diaspora.

And then, last week, we received a phenomenal confirmation of how truly special and unique we are - in the eyes of world Jewry.

Our Federation, under the auspices of our CJE with the extraordinary work and leadership of Rabbi Josh Broide, has been awarded this year’s Jerusalem unity prize! And we are the first recipients outside of Israel to receive this award!

A little history on this prize: to honor the memories of the three Israeli teens kidnapped and murdered by terrorists on their way home from school in 2014, and to fan the flames of Jewish unity the tragedy sparked around the world, their parents and the mayor of Jerusalem established the annual Jewish Unity Day and Jerusalem Unity Prize.

Of course here in our community, for years we have strived for Jewish unity. We practice it every single day. And the world knows it.

Let’s hear it from the Mayor of Jerusalem…

This prestigious international award is bestowed by an illustrious committee that includes Rabbi Lord Sacks, Natan Sharansky and the like! Please join me in congratulating Rabbi Josh Broide for his amazing work and leadership, and in thanking our communications director, Andrea Schuver, for her labor of love in writing and illustrating the extensive application.

And finally, applaud yourselves for modeling the mitzvah of Ahavat Yisrael, loving each other, each and every day.

Amid all our much-deserved celebration tonight, the monumental demographic shifts we’ve anticipated continue to advance around us. Every one of our programs, operations and activities is planned and conducted to meet this shift head-on.

One major component of this is engaging far more of our Jewish community in our work. And we’re doing it. Of course, another critical component of meeting our demographic challenges continues to be diversifying our revenue streams.

So I am proud to report that with continued growth in our Annual Campaign and the Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation, As well as revenues from the development of Toby & Leon Cooperman Sinai Residences, our financial footing is firm. And we are laying an ever-stronger foundation for the future of our sacred mission.

Through our campaign and beyond, we keep amping up our outreach and targeted marketing, diversifying our programming and offering creative ways to attain new giving levels. Our campaign continues to increase in both dollars raised and numbers of donors.

Meanwhile, our foundation continues to experience phenomenal growth. Many of you are familiar with how Federations with a longer history than ours are able to make a considerable portion of their allocations through their endowments. Now, with our concerted efforts, we’re on our way to joining them.

JJCF’s total assets under management are approaching 95 million dollars – a 30% increase since just 2014, when our Senior Vice President Cathy Schwartz joined our Federation!

In the past three years, we’ve almost doubled our unrestricted funds to nearly $17 million dollars. Our PACE and LOJE funds, which directly benefit the Annual Campaign every year, have increased over 25% just since 2016, to over $13 and a half million.

And there’s more to celebrate with the successful “Create a Jewish Legacy” program run by our Foundation. In fact, we’re the most successful CJL community in the country!

In only three years, JJCF has helped the 15 local participating Jewish organizations and synagogues secure over 544 commitments. These are conservatively valued at $ 60.3 million dollars for the future of this community! Eighty-eight of the CJL commitments are earmarked for our Federation, valued at more than $ 31 million in future funds.

We thank Larry Blair on completing his first year as JJCF chair,

And we recognize all of you in our Federation family who have made a legacy commitment. Your support ensures a thriving future for our community. Thank you!

Now, let’s talk about that crown jewel on our North Campus. Just as we planned, Toby & Leon Cooperman Sinai Residences is a successful investment that will help our Federation care for our community and our world for generations to come. With all residential levels filled and waiting lists on file, it’s time to build on our success.

I am also excited that plans are underway to expand Sinai – and its benefits for our Federation. The new building will house more than 100 luxurious independent living residences and more.

Our dedicated Sinai board of managers continues to develop and oversee this superb project!

The development on our North Campus will also include a new event center and a two-story parking garage.

Meeting our community’s demographic shift also requires knowing what our Jewish residents need. So this year we’ve been working with Brandeis University to conduct our first community demographic study in twelve years.

This fall we’ll be analyzing a wealth of new information about our Jewish neighbors, to create a blueprint for current and future needs.

Because of you, we’re becoming increasingly able to take what’s in our hearts, and what we want to do, from imagination to reality.

For example, I’m proud to tell you that this year we made strides toward becoming a premier Jewish community for those with special needs and their families.

Chaired by the remarkable Emily Grabelsky, our Special Needs Initiative convened an array of stakeholders in town hall meetings, and in work groups that will now make recommendations regarding programs and services.

Our Jewish Abilities Alliance Of South Palm Beach County Resource Directory went online this spring. We’ve hired a professional special needs community liaison.

And we’ve engaged the internationally-renowned, Israel-based disabilities organization, Beit Issie Shapiro, as a consultant. We look forward to all we will accomplish together for our special needs families in the years to come.

This initiative reminds us why we’re really here.

Because we believe in our heads and in our hearts kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, we are responsible for each other.

For the well-being and security of our Jewish family near and far.

To secure the Jewish future for our children, their children and beyond.

To connect all generations in our community with Israel.

To rise as one in times of celebration and in times of trouble, whenever and wherever our people need us.

So let’s use our current momentum to keep imagining, and working passionately together. Because it’s apparent that we’re headed for the time when our hopes and dreams will be limited only by our vision and our determination.

It has been my privilege to speak with you tonight. To all of you, my deepest thanks. May we continue together from STRENGTH TO STRENGTH ON BEHALF OF OUR COMMUNITY AND OUR WORLD.