GROWING. EVOLVING. THRIVING
Remarks by President & CEO Matthew C. Levin at the 2019 Annual Meeting
Never let it be said that amid all the serious business of our Federation, we don’t enjoy our work!
But really, folks, it’s our joy and enthusiasm – along with incredible vision and courage, wisdom and creativity, skill and sheer grit – that have carried us forward through 40 years of challenges and accomplishments you’ve been hearing about.
So now let’s take a few moments to reflect on our past year together.
One of the great joys of my job is getting to work with extraordinary lay leaders and colleagues every day.
This past year I’ve had the great fortune and pleasure of working with our deeply wise, always open and thoroughly engaged board chair, Arthur Goldberg. I am grateful for another year ahead with my partner in leadership.
As well as with all of our committed officers, including Debra Halperin, our Campaign Chair, and Larry Blair, who chairs our Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation.
And I’m thrilled that the dynamic Larry Feldman has become our Chair Designate tonight. Looking back, Larry has been preparing for years to lead our Federation, and I look forward to what lies ahead.
Deepest thanks to our past board chairs here tonight. We’re so moved by your eloquent observations on video. Your continued involvement is vital to our Federation’s enduring strength and stability. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special shout out to our immediate past chair, Anne Jacobson.
Many of the photos we’ve seen onscreen tonight bring back memories of people we dearly miss. We remember all those we have lost whose leadership and generosity built this Federation and Jewish community and enabled us to be here tonight to celebrate our 40 years.
This past year, we lost five leaders and philanthropists who continue to inspire us: County Commissioner Burt Aaronson; Florence Brody; Helen Cohan, Bill Newman and Selma Sitrick. Now I have to echo arthur about our remarkable staff. Our stability and strength also depend on you. Your dedication and support of our mission are instrumental to our success throughout our Federation.
Thanks to all the leaders here from our growing number of agency and school beneficiaries. We are so proud, and grateful for your partnership.
And we thank Dr. Debra Hallow as she retires from 25 years of service to our community and the incredible growth of Jarc under her leadership. We have a great relationship with Jeff Zirulnick, JARC’s incoming CEO. Jeff, please know that our Federation and community are behind you.
To our rabbis and synagogue leaders – your genuine love and respect for each other are such a model for all of us. What a joy and privilege it is to work together for the benefit of our community and our people.
And deepest thanks to our Division, Committee and Event Chairs - and to all of you for your time, your generosity and your dedication.
I have to shout out the vision, philanthropy and leadership our amazing women. The rock of our campaign, they keep us a national leader in Lions of Judah and LOJE endowments. With our Women’s Philanthropy Chair, Jill Rose, and Campaign Chair, Karen Dern, we have another phenomenal year ahead.
Ok. So what’s going on these days at Federation?
We’ve felt it, we’ve seen it. And now our demographic study confirmed we have far more children, young adults and families.
But we’ve been on it for years, ramping up programming for millennials, singles and young marrieds, children and teens.
YAD keeps expanding its programs, and is a major pipeline to leadership. YAD and PJ Library® offer engaging programming for young families and parents. PJ Library is about to deliver its 100,000th book to our families. And that’s just part of the evolution taking place throughout our Federation, for our truly multigenerational Jewish community.
Folks, we have a real Jewish future. It’s our young people and they’re already here!
And we’re way into the mission business! With both large community-wide missions and smaller boutique trips. In fact, I just got back from an incredible Israel mission with 35 of our Prime Philanthropists!
At the same time, a group of our young women was in Israel with our Partnership 2gether Sister Community, Zichron Yaakov. Some of our young adults just came home from the National Young Leadership Cabinet mission to Tblisi and St. Petersburg, Russia. And some of our KDS members recently returned from India.
Israel awareness and engagement has become an even higher priority for our changing demographics. With programs like Israel Fest, Imagination Israel, and immersive Israel experiences such as Onward Israel and gap year programs that stay with our young people for life.
Our demographic study also confirmed something Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services knows all too well. There is real financial vulnerability in our Jewish community. While so many of us are thriving here, behind the sculpted gardens and swaying palms, many are struggling.
Of course, in addition to allocating funds that aid our neighbors who need us, our Federation brings us together to advocate for partnerships that draw government funds into our community.
We’ve begun delving into the demographic study’s wealth of information, along with our agencies and other community partners. There is so much to absorb and integrate.
Throughout our history, we have continually responded to the changing composition and needs of this community. Now we have an invaluable blueprint for today and the years ahead. This is exactly why we knew this project was so important. It allows us to reflect on and analyze our Jewish community today, and takes us into tomorrow.
As for our Annual Campaign, it came out of the gate with great energy and creativity. We proudly introduced our new branding at our campaign launch party with all our Departments and Divisions. And our Social Justice Mission took our women through the south to explore the civil rights movement through a Jewish lens.
With our business and professional division, we continue to bring in accomplished industry icon speakers, and our INSPIRE mentoring program keeps building careers and relationships as it builds our community.
We mounted 40 Days of Impact with a whole calendar, building momentum up to Super Sunday/ONE DAY. And ONE DAY brought hundreds of volunteers together for Super Sunday, along with Jewish community in action projects around the area. Families also enjoyed and learned at PJ Library® Pre-Passover Chocolate Seders on our campus. How’s that for a multigenerational community, folks?
A new generation is returning home here to raise their families. And they’re joined by young professionals drawn here for the high quality of Jewish life. Many are finding their place in our Federation. But it’s clear we must keep scaling up our efforts to expand our donor base throughout our community.
So thanks to all of you for coming to events and talking about Federation with your friends, neighbors and colleagues. You, our leaders and donors, are by far our best ambassadors to share what Federation offers in programs, camaraderie and the deep rewards of helping our community and our people.
And what more can we say about Sinai Residences? Given Sinai’s incredible success, and with the continued expert governance of its board of managers, I’m thrilled to report that its expansion is moving forward. We expect construction on the new building with 111 Independent Living Units and other areas for all residents to be complete by June 2022.
Meanwhile, our Jacobson Jewish Community foundation continues its phenomenal growth. Arthur explained how Federations with a longer history than ours are able to make a considerable portion of their allocations through their endowments. And I’m happy to report we’re continuing on the way to joining them.
Over the past four years, the Foundation’s assets have grown by 25% to $93 million. Additionally, the value of our LOJE and PACE endowments, that directly benefit the Annual Campaign, have increased by 44% - and our unrestricted assets have grown by an incredible 68%.
Getting back to programming for our burgeoning number of young families, here’s some exciting news. We are the first of four communities accepted for the Grinspoon Foundation’s new PJ Life & Legacy endowment program.
Our Foundation’s scholarships for Jewish camping and Israel experiences have more than tripled in the past three years – and we have launched our one happy camper scholarship program.
Tonight we also celebrate two extremely generous endowments to our Federation over the past year.
William “Bill” Newman, of blessed memory, established a magnanimous and historic multi-million dollar endowment to ensure that his annual prime ministers council-level gift will continue in perpetuity. You’ll hear more about Bill later in our program.
And Jane And Alan Cornell fully endowed their King David Society gifts, while also naming our Annual Campaign’s Fund for Israel & Our Global Family.
Thanks to our PAC members, who are absolutely instrumental to this growth, and to all of you in our Federation family who are ensuring a thriving future for our community with your legacy commitment.
Over our 40 years, our Federation has been part of freeing Soviet and Ethiopian Jews; multiple wars, threats and bombardments of Israel; relief and recovery from hurricanes; and economic ups and downs. We’ve been through a lot together! And, yes, there will always be challenges ahead.
Right now, an overriding challenge confronts our entire Jewish family near and far. Today, all of our work takes place against the backdrop of the dramatic global rise in anti-Semitism.
Our brothers and sisters were murdered at shul in Pittsburgh. We read every day about shocking numbers of defacements, hate-spewing remarks and literature, and violent attacks. This anti-Semitism affects each of us personally, as a community and as a people.
I’ve said it before and here it is again: folks, this is what Federation was built for! We can only be here in times of crisis if we are here and ready in the days and weeks and months and years before.
Only the Federation has the infrastructure and network to mobilize locally on a moment’s notice. And only the Federation system is prepared to come to the aid of our people whenever and wherever we are needed.
I have such faith in our community!
Thank you for listening tonight, for commemorating our 40th Anniversary, and for being part of what has given us so very much to celebrate.
Together we are strong. Together we thrive.