Remarks by Board Chair Arthur Goldberg at the 2019 Annual Meeting
What a fascinating history we have had. Think of the chutzpah of our founders to separate from Palm Beach and start our own Federation from scratch, with all the financial, logistical, and other challenges that brings.
Then think of the difficulty, when we completely restructured by separating from our founding agencies and making them independent, while retaining a deep partnership relationship with them.
And in 2008, when the Great Recession hit, and it looked like the world was falling apart economically. And here in South Florida, we were particularly hard hit because that crisis brought about the Madoff fraud exposure.
We knew we had to adjust to a new reality of a much smaller campaign with some very hard decisions. Not only did we do it, but we continued to grow our presence as the hub of our Jewish community. This was proven when last year we became the first North American organization to win the Jerusalem Unity Prize in recognition of our community's cohesion and camaraderie.
And let's applaud the foresight we had 10 years ago to develop what is now the Toby & Leon Cooperman Sinai Residences. At the time, a very controversial decision. Today, U.S. News & World Report rates it one of the best life plan communities in the United States, and it's one of the few health centers to be awarded a five-star rating by the State of Florida. By any standard, Sinai is an outstanding success for our community and for our Federation.
In this past year, to better prepare for the future, we completed a demographic study, jointly with our agencies, schools, and synagogues, to help all of us become more responsive to our community's future needs. This study has a wealth of information, but one thing stands out loud and clear to me: we live in a very dynamic, engaged Jewish community, maybe like no other.
A few telling statistics:
- We are 135,000 Jews, about one third of the population in our geographic area.
- Our median age, surprisingly, has dropped from 71 to 56 since 2005, which was the date of our last demographic survey. So, we are becoming a much younger community.
- The intermarriage rate among Jews in the United States is over 50%, and it is one of Diaspora Jewry’s biggest concerns. But in our community, it's only 16%. And two-thirds of the children from those marriages are being raised Jewish.
- 70% of our community's adults have been to Israel at least once, compared to 45% across the rest of the country.
So, this is truly a very special community.
And with that in mind, where are we today? I must tell you, speaking only personally for the moment, I can't discuss where we are today and ignore the horrible spread of anti-Semitism. Whether it's the white supremacists on the right, or the BDS movement on the left, we must respond to this. We must be active. We must not rest.
First, we must make sure our Jewish institutions are secure from the madness on the right. And on the left, we must use our resources to educate those who denigrate Israel and Jews. We must get them to understand the enormous complexities of the Middle East, both in its history and current events, and that their views suffer from an utterly misleading simplicity.
And here at home, we continue to see the strength of our campus in fostering Jewish togetherness and service to our community. And maybe, just maybe, sometimes we take it too much for granted. When people from other Federations visit us, they are in awe. While their Federations, some of which are much larger, offer the same services that we do, they can't appreciate where they are. But they can appreciate what we do in this campus-like setting. And it's a consistent attitude whenever they're here.
But as wonderful as it is, we also must be mindful of the fact of the heavy financial expense we incur to maintain the beauty, security, and efficiency of the campus.
In this regard, our Annual Campaign has grown in line with comparable Federations, and we hope and expect that we can do better in the future.
And while we've done a great job in building our donor-advised funds, and have grown our unrestricted assets by nearly 70% in the past four years, notwithstanding all that, we do have one glaring disadvantage. Because we started our Foundation with nothing in 1984, our total unrestricted endowment is still much smaller than those of comparable Federations, giving us less financial flexibility.
So, we have a goal and a plan to significantly grow our endowment in the next five years, while enabling our Federation to operate more effectively and efficiently. This will require changes in how we operate, which we are well along in developing. Some of these changes will be challenging. But under Matt's leadership, with Mel, and Marla, and the entire senior staff who have totally signed on to this effort, I am confident we are in good hands as we move from strength to strength.
And on a personal note, as I end my first year and begin my second, I want to publicly thank my very loving and supportive wife, Hedy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. For putting up with me this past year, and for being my perfect life's partner. And also for buying me this shirt and tie combination. I hope you like it.
Finally, I want to tell you how confident I am. I am gratified by our team, both the professionals and the lay leadership, and I believe our future will be brighter than ever.
So, I thank you all for coming. I thank you for being part of our Federation. Please stay involved, because we are going places. Thank you very much.