Answer the Call


When some 500 Jews gather at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy on Sunday for the annual phone-a-thon for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, they'll be doing more than making phone calls. They'll be delivering a message that your dollars count in our community.

It's a message none of us can afford to ignore. At a time of growing demands and limited resources, Super Sunday gives us the opportunity to stand up — or pick up, in this case — and be counted to help support Jewish life and needs at home and abroad.

The Federation has long been a powerful force in this town, serving as the community's central fundraising body. It still counts for a significant chunk of the Jewish dollars that enable an array of programs that benefit everyone from cradle to grave.

Federation leaders are constantly grappling with how to raise more money and how best to allocate that which they do raise. But the bottom line: It's never enough.

It's not enough to send an unlimited number of children to Jewish summer camp or day school or Israel. It's not enough to provide for the myriad needs of the elderly and the poor. It's not enough to fund the worthy programs in Israel, the former Soviet Union and elsewhere that seek our assistance. It's not enough to adequately advocate for Israel.

Each year, Federation leaders and volunteers go through the arduous process of determining which programs will get how much. Recognizing the limited resources and widespread needs, Federation recently undertook a process to delineate a new set of priorities to guide its decisions.

The committee, led by Daniel E. Bacine, was guided by the findings of the Federation's 2009 Jewish population study. In addition to the stark findings about the dearth of children in our community (only 22 percent of the nearly 117,000 Jewish households have children under the age of 18) was the disturbing revelation that a minority of those surveyed consider it important to be part of the Jewish community.

Given this reality, the committee rightly honed in on strengthening Jewish identity as a top priority. "Our continuity as an active, creative and satisfying Jewish community, serving both common and individual needs, can be maintained only by encouraging the development of a stronger Jewish identity in our current and future generations."

Without strongly identified Jews, there will be no community to advance other priorities outlined, including providing a safety net for the most vulnerable populations or advocating for Israel. Such programs to build Jewish life — and sustain it — cost money. We all have a stake in how this turns out.

And we all have a responsibility to contribute our share. So when your phone rings on Sunday, answer it, and help ensure a vibrant, supportive Jewish community for our children and beyond.



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