This week’s announcement of a new CEO to lead our Jewish Federation couldn’t have been more timely. It comes just days before Super Sunday, when hundreds of volunteers will converge at Barrack Hebrew Academy to raise funds for the many important causes Federation supports.
The naming of Naomi Adler, an attorney-turned-fundraising executive who has a stellar reputation for leading two United Way operations in New York state, has generated excitement and anticipation.
When she arrives to take the reins in May, she will have her work cut out for her.
The top professional plays a crucial role in setting the tone and building the relationships that will determine how Federation is perceived in the community by donors, grant recipients, Jewish organizations, synagogues and other stakeholders.
But the CEO does not act in a vacuum; she must work in concert with professional staff and lay leaders who together craft a common agenda and set critical goals and priorities.
Ours is a diverse, vibrant community filled with intellectual fervor, spiritual creativity and philanthropic generosity. What’s often missing is a sense of cohesion, an understanding that across the economic, political and religious divides, we share a common purpose and destiny.
While we may quibble over how and where certain funds are distributed, there can be no argument about the collective good that comes from the multitude of programs our organized community supports.
Federation dollars support three main priority areas: caring for those in need, from seniors to the Jewish poor; enriching Jewish life through educational and identity-building programs; and supporting people in Israel and in the former Soviet Union.
Supporting the Federation, as Adler put it, “is the most impactful way to support the largest number of people. There’s no better way to get a bang for your buck philanthropically.”
Sadly, that ethos of collective responsibility has dissipated in recent years. It used to be that if you were Jewish, you gave to Federation. It was as automatic as celebrating Passover or going to synagogue on Rosh Hashanah.
We have an opportunity to reinvigorate our community with new leadership and a new spirit of giving.
Naomi Adler will be arriving officially in May. But we can start — and keep — giving generously now. Answer the call when your phone rings on Sunday. It’s a super time to give.