Apr 8, 2014

2014 Federation Annual Meeting "State of the Federation Address"

Delivered by Matthew C. Levin, President & CEO


State of the Federation delivered by Matthew C. Levin, President & CEO, at the 2014 Annual Meeting on April 8, 2014

What was the Beatles’ mantra, their big slogan, their signature song?

All You Need is Love, right? A pretty lofty concept, especially for a pragmatist like myself. But when you get down to it, really at the heart of it all… what was the motivation that built this Federation? What is the motivation that sustains it? In a word, Love.

Love and concern for those in need.
Love and care for our Jewish heritage.
Love and dedication to a strong, bright and vibrant Jewish future.
Love for that feeling of community and kinship with each other that transcends all differences.

It’s the glue that makes us all do what we do, from day to day and throughout the years, lay leaders and professional staff alike. We do it because it’s in our hearts. But tonight, a little fanfare is definitely fitting. So even after all those tributes, I want to make absolutely certain Ellen is feeling the love in this room right now.

If ever there was someone impassioned to give of her time and talents it is you, Ellen. You are driven by your heart – and your dedication is most evident. And, as we heard echoed in your tributes, you do it with joy. You do it with style. And you do it first class. On behalf of all of us who make up your Federation family: Thank you.

I would also like to extend our gratitude to Annie and Norm. It’s so fitting to have you as chairs of tonight’s annual meeting, which has such significance in the history of our Federation. Your commitments to this organization and our community have been nothing less than historic. Thank you.

Ellen, of course, has been doing it with A Little Help from Our Friends – a stellar, bar none team of officers made up of:

Anne Jacobson, Vice Chair, FRD; Betty Kane, Vice Chair, Campaign; Joe Mishkin, Vice Chair, Planning & Allocations; Rich Steinberg, Vice Chair, Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation; Eric Stein, Vice Chair, IOC; Wes Finch, Carol Smokler and Etta Zimmerman, Vice Chairs; Stewart Kasen, Treasurer; Arthur Goldberg, Assistant Treasurer; Debra Halperin, Secretary; and Al Gortz, Assistant Secretary who, of course, will be taking Ellen’s place this coming year as Federation Chair. You will hear from Al later on this evening, when he presents his vision for the future. Thank you to a talented and dedicated Executive Committee and Board of Directors.

As for our Board leadership, I’ve reserved this last thank you for a very special woman. She has served our Federation with dedication, creativity and enthusiasm, especially over the past two years. She is, of course, Emily Grabelsky, our outgoing Chair of Women’s Philanthropy.

Though she’s one of our younger leaders, Emily’s history with us is long and impressive. In addition to serving as Women’s Philanthropy Chair, she’s served on our Board of Directors. For Women’s Philanthropy, she’s also held the portfolios of Campaign Chair, Lion of Judah, Community Development and Education. Emily received the Dorothy Seaman Leadership Award. She has chaired Education Day and Super Sunday, served on the Adolph & Rose Levis JCC Board… and I could go on and on. Emily, thank you is not enough, but it’s the best I can do this evening.

With that, we welcome Judi Schuman as our new Women’s Philanthropy Chair. Judi, with your talent and experience, and what is arguably the very strongest, proudest women’s philanthropy group in the nation, we have every confidence in another great year ahead.

As for the professional staff, where would our Jewish community be without Mel Lowell, Chief Operating Officer, and Marla Weiss Egers, Executive Vice President, Financial Resource Development?

Mel, who has been with us for 10 and a half years, has not only been an outstanding COO and my trusted partner, but has been the steam engine behind what will be the state-of the-art in Continuing Care Retirement Communities – Sinai Residences of Boca Raton here on our campus.

And Marla, celebrating 12 and a half years here. Can anyone imagine this Federation without her? A treasure and a joy to work with, she’s endeared herself to so many across our community and has led to so much success here.

And my deepest appreciation goes out to our entire Senior Management Team: Tom Forlenza, Janet Izaak, Aimee Kaye, Jennifer Koenig, Andy Rose, Steve Rose, Stuart Silver, Dana Vizner and our new CFO, Jeffrey Iserson.

This year, along with our entire Federation staff, you all helped us Get Back to Where We Once BelongedBut extraordinary people are something our Federation has never been short on. In our 35-year history, we’ve had some great ones. A special thank you to Larry Phillips for joining us tonight with his sister, Carol.

This past year, we were deeply saddened to have lost two greats: Stewart Harris and Jim Nobil. Both were strong, passionate leaders who generously gave of their time, resources and expertise. We’re still reaping the fruits of their labors, as will generations to follow. We miss them dearly. As we do the many others who have left us.

Finally, I would like to mention some special people in my life – my family. My wife Danielle and my sons Jakob, Cooper and Noah who are here with us tonight.

You know, so many people ask me, “Matt, why Federation? Why do I need to support Federation?” Well, to fully appreciate what our Federation does, what it means, how it affects others, Imagine this: our community without this Federation.

You may recall one recipient that we highlighted this year – Rachel. This young woman is 20 years old now, orphaned, and intellectually disabled. She will almost certainly require lifetime care, yet has not one living family member to look after her. By the grace of G-d, and a caring friend of her mother, she found her way to the Jewish Association for Residential Care, where she’s receiving the support, encouragement and life skills training she desperately needs. Rachel is happy today. She has hopes, dreams and many friends. She says JARD is her family. Now imagine there is no Federation. There is JARC. What happens to Rachel?

Where would she be?

What would her life be like?

That is the power of our Federation. That’s one life altered irrevocably, undeniably for the better. Now, multiply that by thousands.

Here in South Palm Beach County.

In Israel.

And around the world.

Imagine if Federation and all of the many agencies we help support weren’t there to provide food, education, shelter, medicine – life-saving, life-affirming, life-enhancing, life-enriching assistance?

Can you imagine that?

Can you imagine our area without the vast array of rabbis and congregations that make up the incredible mosaic of our Jewish community?

And what about the 1,800 young students able to attend local Jewish Day Schools thanks to the scholarship money, tuition support and other assistance that our Federation made available?

Imagine if they did not have that opportunity?

This is the challenge I pose to all of you…

Why Federation?

The answer lies in that gap between what we have accomplished and the life-changing things we continue to do together – and what would never have been if, 35 years ago, a group of impassioned people – including our incoming Federation Chair Al Gortz – hadn’t gotten together to build something extraordinary founded on love, chutzpah and Jewish responsibility? Just imagine what would be lost.

Well, I’ve Got a Feeling that hundreds of thousands of lives would be far less wonderful, including ours as donors who fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah and know the profound rewards of helping.

Now let’s take a look at this past year. Do You Want to Know a Secret? We’re better than ever. As a Federation and as a Jewish community.

For the second year in a row, our campaign, chaired by Betty Kane, is growing. We’re right on track to exceed this year’s goal and realize a $14.2 million campaign. Last year, our rebound reached $13.7 million. To bolster the campaign, we launched two initiatives over 18 months:

“Make a Major Difference” has challenged us to welcome 100 new $10,000-plus donors into the Federation family, to which we’ve already added 61 newcomers; and

“Everyone Counts” challenges us to attract 1,000 new donors across the community and has already brought in 508 of them.

The Foundation’s Promises Kept Campaign is making strides to meet the needs of our community for generations to come – with a number of unrestricted gifts and a very substantial commitment from Debra and Jerry Kramer. The Foundation now claims assets under management of more than $70 million.

Our Foundation’s Professional Advisory Committee helped generate $10 million in commitments, encouraging their clients to establish meaningful charitable gifts.

The re-branded Jewish Women’s Foundation just celebrated its tenth anniversary of grantmaking.

I am proud to say that the number of community partnerships that the Federation supports has grown to more than 50 organizations – from those providing food, shelter and basic necessities, to those that brighten our shared Jewish future and support our connection to our Homeland.

And we’ve cultivated relationships with new community partners, including Festival of the Arts… Boca West Foundation… and Hands on Tzedakah.

We’ve also forged new ground in community leadership development with our inaugural Jewish Community Leadership Institute, fostering collaboration to help our community leaders excel.

Last November, our Federation’s first Jewish Community Leadership Mission brought together 30 of our Jewish community’s key leaders for a transformative week in Israel.

Meanwhile, in our Department of Jewish Education, students from our four Day Schools decided to allocate their tzedakah raised through their Chesed Day program to the Federation.

In addition, our March of the Living program will take two adult buses to Poland and Israel later this month.

The JCRC brought 1,500 people to our campus for the Courage to Remember Holocaust Exhibit last fall. The program has since reached 1,600 students at two local public high schools.

As donors, we’ve also come together for some powerful events including, of course, the Sandler Family Major Gifts Event. The Lion of Judah Luncheon. THE EVENT. And Super Sunday.

Our ever-committed Country Club and Community leaders and volunteers diligently worked our Annual Campaign at a wide range of events, from elegant dinners to golf tournaments to insider briefings and outreaches in private homes.

We introduced a new event called the Golden Gathering, dedicated to longtime donors who have been with us through many Yesterdays.

And it may not be Maxwell’s silver hammer, but it was our silver shovels that broke new ground for one of the year’s biggest highlights – the stunning state-of-the-art Sinai Residences of Boca Raton on more than 23 acres of our North Campus. As of today, 211 future residents have reserved their new apartment homes, resulting in 91% capacity, with bonds selling at an amazing rate.

The truth is there is much to celebrate tonight.

Our Young Adult Division kept busy with a wide range of exciting events, including Bake a Difference, Wandering Happy Hours and special holiday celebrations.

And, last summer, young Jewish adults from our community took part in a life-changing ten-day trip to Israel on our first Birthright Israel Community Bus – to be repeated this coming June.

Behind the scenes on our campus, Federation Transportation Services provided 52,000 trips in the past year to enable senior and disabled clients to get to their doctor appointments, meal programs, educational and social activities, and more.

Earlier, I asked you to imagine what this community would be like without our Federation. I hope you gave it some thought. But now consider the opposite…

Imagine what this community could be like if no child was left hungry;

If no frail senior was left without proper care;

If every Jewish family that wanted a Jewish education for their children could access it;

If our entire Jewish community of all ages felt that special connection to Israel and stood in solidarity and support?

That is our Strawberry Fields. That is our Here Comes the Sun.

And my personal mission as President and CEO and leader of the band is to work with all of you to make that vision a reality. To make sure our Federation and its vital work is on everyone’s lips, on everyone’s minds and, most important, in everyone’s hearts.

Thank you to all of you.