May 3, 2013

Looking Back on an Epic Year and Envisioning Our Future

This week marked one of the definite highlights of my first season at Federation, as we celebrated our many accomplishments and thanked our leaders at the 2013 Annual Meeting on Tuesday night. From the red carpet entrance til the final curtain call, the sense of pride and partnership among 250 of our passionate, committed community leaders and donors was a true testament to “An Epic Year.” The multimedia State of the Federation Address from our continuing Board Chair Ellen R. Sarnoff left no doubt that our efforts are on target: we are indeed building a stronger community to care for each other.

Roxane and Michael Lipton chaired a movie-themed evening of warmth, joy and optimism that will resound for a long time, as it set the stage for the coming year. My congratulations to them, to our new 2013-14 Board, and to four of our brightest stars who received significant awards at the event: Joseph Mishkin, James H. Nobil Community Leadership Award; Janet Izaak, James H. Nobil Professional Achievement Award; Rabbi Josh Broide, James and Marjorie Baer Outstanding Young Leadership Award; and Elyssa Kupferberg, JFNA National Achievement Award.

At the Annual Meeting, it was my honor and privilege to present the following vision for our community – a vision that resonates far beyond the people in the room that night, encompassing all our community and, especially, the thousands of people you help feed, protect, teach, inspire, save and comfort every day, everywhere.

As always, I’m eager to hear your thoughts at I also look forward to seeing you at Israel Fest 65, our free community celebration featuring the Maccabeats and the Boca Raton Symphonia on Sunday May 19 at Mizner Park Amphitheater.


Delivered by Matthew C. Levin, President & CEO, at the 2013 Annual Meeting

This has indeed been An Epic Year at our Federation, and I’m thrilled to say it’s a new dawn for our Jewish Community – with great thanks to those of you here tonight. You have wrapped Holocaust survivors in a warm cloak of dignity and security. You have fed our frail seniors – with nourishing food and kindness. Embracing those with disabilities, you have provided job training and the hope of a better tomorrow. In the dark of night, you have stood steadfast with our brothers and sisters on the frontlines in Israel. You have heard the calls from down the street and halfway around the globe, reaching out and speaking up for those who must depend on us. I am so proud and gratified to stand before you tonight.

With my new lens, I see scenes of compassion and promise playing out across this campus – and throughout our community – every day. Jewish values are coming into focus in our classrooms and committee meetings. And – as the fiddler plays from our rooftops, a lyrical metaphor for survival in an uncertain world – we celebrate the richness of our culture, the strength of our common bonds and the promise of our shared future.

When I took this position, I brought with me a firm belief in this community’s generosity and dedication to Jewish values and the Jewish people. I was excited then – and I’m even more excited now – about the amazing possibilities opening up for us.

The incredible group of donors and leaders assembled in this room hold what I feel is truly the greatest potential of any Jewish community in the country. We are partners on a journey to fulfill that potential. To bring people together…To care for and nurture each other…To build bridges…To succeed in ways that our founders could have only dreamed.

In the span of a single generation, these founders – people like Abby Levine, Larry Phillips, Richard and Carole Siemens, Jimmy and Margie Baer, Jim Nobil and so many others – set the scene for our epic adventure, laying the foundation for what has become one of the largest annual campaigns and the largest Jewish campus in the country. Dedicated philanthropists like the Sandler Family, the Jacobsons, the Pechters, Toby Weinman Palchik, Dotti Seaman and Marleen Forkas have moved the story forward with their magnanimous gifts. They have all set the scene for where we find ourselves today.

Donors and leaders in our country clubs and divisions, in Women’s Philanthropy, Foundation and throughout our organization have taken the mantle to meet today’s challenges and move us full force into the future.

Our Annual Campaign is growing again. Our larger number of contributors includes newcomers as well as returning donors ready to re-invest with us. They’re recognizing our Federation’s unique ability to allocate their investments where they will do the most good on behalf of our Jewish community and our people. . . and they’re investing not just for today. They’re ensuring a bright Jewish future by participating in our Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation and the recently launched “Promises Kept” Campaign.

We’re reaching out as never before to engage people throughout our diverse Jewish community in ways that resonate best with each of them. One great example is the long-anticipated launch of PJ Library® to 3,000 local homes with young children. 350 young families enthusiastically signed up on the first day of registration alone!

We are a young community – compared to places like Chicago, Boston or New York, where endowments have been in place for generations. In contrast, we are also the oldest demographically.

Yet a new generation of leaders is right here among us, preparing for their entrance. Just look around you for proof of South Palm Beach County’s changing demographics: more young families in our neighborhoods…more year-round residents…more up-and-coming entrepreneurs and business professionals.

But far too many are still unaware of the pressing needs of our people – and the essential role our community has historically played to address them. As the leading organization for Jewish communal life, it is up to us to foster the growth of our volunteers and staff at every stage of development, to ensure future leadership for our Federation and our community.

A new breed of young dynamic leaders is already learning and connecting through Emerging Jewish Philanthropists and LEADS training. They’re redefining networking at B&P events. They’re sharing interests during Pomegranate programs and more. In addition to nurturing the talents of those who have already stepped forward, we must reach out to the wider community – to build new leaders, engage new partners and strengthen existing relationships.

It’s also up to all of us to see that their children are raised in the warmth of caring, Jewish tradition and values – so when their turn comes and life challenges them, they’ll draw strength from their Jewish identity and be prepared to help those in need.

We have accomplished so much. But if we are truly committed to caring for each other – today and in the future – our reach must be far broader and deeper.

And we must fulfill all these vital responsibilities with civility and respect. We won’t always agree…Conflict is invariably part of making progress…But we must remember that, from recent retirees on the ocean to young families in their first homes, to our wisest elders, all of us want what’s best for our community.

When we all sit down at the same table, it’s often our individual differences that make us stronger. And folks, we have a big table – it’s right here on our campus and there’s room for everyone. The diversity found in our synagogues, neighborhoods and demographics, in our affiliations and in our individual paths offers a wealth of opportunities.

And we, my friends, are going to mine those opportunities. We are not only going to widen existing portals for engagement – we are throwing the doors wide open.

We’re working, hand in hand, with the agencies we fund, to assess the community’s needs – and to help meet them through our vital programs like Federation Transportation Service and our Special Needs Department.

We’re meeting with rabbis throughout the area and exploring new ways to pursue the goals we share.

We’re also building and enhancing collaborations through two new local funding initiatives. Through our Foundation’s Kamsly Teen Program Fund and new Outreach funding through P&A, we’ve made 26 dynamic new programming grants to local synagogues and organizations – some of which had never before received funds from us.

Fifteen partners are working with our Foundation to sustain our community by creating their own Jewish Legacies.

This year, for the first time, we collaborated with organizers of Festival of the Arts Boca, on two events with Schindler’s List author Thomas Keneally.

Clearly, we’re on a mission – a newly focused one – to offer every Jew in South Palm Beach County a meaningful opportunity to connect with this community. Together we will face the challenges with increasing strength and ever-growing numbers. We will reach out to those in need with compassion and generosity as no other organization can. We will raise the banner of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and carry it proudly wherever we go.

Everyone in this room has a critical role to play in this production. You are ambassadors in the community, in your neighborhoods, your synagogues, your schools. You are foot soldiers, standing proudly on the frontlines, advocating for Israel. You are leaders and dreamers, investors and builders. You have done so much already – but there is more to do.

So let me close with an ask. Today, the needs in our community far exceed what we are currently raising. Folks - philanthropy isn’t a dirty word. It’s an investment – plain and simple – an investment in our future and in Jewish life. There are so many people we still must reach! And we can’t we can’t do it without your help.

Thank you again for all you do for our Federation, our Jewish community, our people – and for attending this evening’s Annual Meeting. I look forward to working closely with all of you as our 2013 Campaign winds down and 2014 begins. Thank you.


Matthew C. Levin, President & CEO
Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County

Past Messages from Matt