A reader suggested that I dedicate a Post to FIVE SUCCESSFUL LOCAL FEDERATION INITIATIVES JFNA NEVER TALKS ABOUT. This is easy...as JFNA never...never...talks about Federation Initiatives (except, perhaps, to cite them if they appear in the press) because, as you know, JFNA is only about...JFNA.
1. Chicago's Nachshon Missions. This incredibly successful Chicago Program is neither new nor unknown to JFNA. (I personally discussed it with the current National "Philanthropic Resources" Chair as recently as late 2010 in Chicago.) Young Chicago Federation campaign leaders expressed a belief that they could recruit a group from among their peers, non- or minor contributors, take them to Israel to touch the needs our Federation serves and from that group expand their campaign commitments and their leadership service. Nachson recently returned from its ninth Mission -- $408,000 in new money raised (a 35% increase)and a total of $1,352,000 to the 2011 Annual Campaign -- a 21% increase gift-for-gift. Even more impressive, our current Board Chair formulated the concept and executed it; the Immediate Past Board Chair created what is essentially Nachson II with equally compelling results. From these groups are multiple Board members, Chairs, Committee Chairs and our Overall Planning and Allocations Chair. JFNA's response to this readily adaptable idea, one that could be so easily replicated nationally -- a yawn and a shrug of the shoulders.
2 New York UJA-Federation's Belonging in 2020: The Nature of the Jewish Community of Tomorrow. Our largest community brought together leaders from around the country "...to explore...revolutionary change..." in the ways that "...long-established institutions as synagogues can adjust to a younger generation whose experiences and expectations are far different from those who came before them." The challenges were spelled out and the participants urged to take ownership through every possible entry portal.
3. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles' School Twinning Program. A remarkably ambitious Program that has grown out of Federation's Tel Aviv/Los Angeles Partnership 2000 relationship, my LA friends tell me it is the only initiative that connects schools in a North American City with schools in Tel Aviv. This is a program that has supported 60,000 students, parents and faculty with jointly prepared curricula, teacher institutes and student/faculty exchange programs wherein students from the partner cities travel to the other living with host families and studying history, literature, pluralism and more at a partner school. LA's support has created "...a shared Jewish identity and destiny." This is a great program, it is a great new Jewish idea -- not the next but the current.
4. Baltimore's THE ASSOCIATED has created a series of across the board Leadership Development Programs that may be unmatched. I'll cite two programs directly focused on young women leaders: Chapter Two is a 10-month educational/engagement program that "...recruits women who are at a stage in their lives when they are looking to grow as Jewish women who are exposed through experiential programs and hands-on social action to "capture their passion and turn it into action. Then there is Dor Tikva a two year leadership development program aimed at women 25-45 "...who aspire to hold key positions within THE ASSOCIATED." These are no TribeFest, these are substantive programs for women of substance.
5. The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta offers the widest range of Community Impact Programs for every stage of the Jewish life cycle -- from l'mazel tov childbirth classes to Pathways, an interfaith family network, through Caregiver Care to direct those who need it, to appropriates support services -- and so many more.
Friends, it's not a challenge to identify brilliant, cutting-edge Federation initiatives around North America -- I could have picked 20-50 more. The 5 I chose are but examples of what federations are doing every day, 24/6. These represent what should be among JFNA's daily obligations. And they could be replicated so readily and so easily. The shame is that they aren't and won't be so long as JFNA's leaders focus on the trivial...and we let them do so.