I have been blessed having learned the lessons of philanthropy, capacity giving and collective responsibility from my community. When I read of the supposed "achievement" of another Federation (hint: the one with the most Jewish lawyers of any community in the world), which raised $1.6 million at its annual Lawyers Division dinner (our Lawyers Division in Chicago is raising about $9 million) or of 1,200 young adults attending the meaningless Tribefest earlier this year, I almost have to cry. Instead, focus with me if you will on Chicago's Young Leaders Mega-Event held on December 11...
The Event, held at the Chicago Sheraton, was headlined by NBC's Jimmy Fallon, and attracted 2,600...yes, you read it correctly...young men and women, who paid $80 per person. The 2,600 included 600 Birthright alumni and 1,000 members of Chicago's young leaders Ben Gurion Society -- men and women who contribute $1,000 and over to the Annual Campaign. And, yes, there was the dinner and the comedy...but, remember, this was a fund-raising event as any and every Chicago JUF/JFMC Event is.
Yes, some of you will dismiss this as "sure, that's Chicago; it doesn't work here in ___________. We could never do that." And, I think you are so wrong. What's needed: a dedicated core of young leaders; an understanding that the community must invest money to secure not only the future but the present; an enthusiastic and creative group of campaign professionals; and an understanding by all that "if I don't do this, who will?" It takes volunteers who call their friends, their colleagues, their business associates and say: "Are you going to the Event? I have a table and would love it if you would join me. It's going to be terrific." And, the word spreads and the room fills to overflowing...and then you begin to plan for and worry about next year.
What does this all mean: for Chicago it means that we are in the process, with Birthright and others, of securing the Next Generation for and within our community. Instead, I see other communities and our national organization distracted from their core purposes...and, then, wondering about why they have fallen so fast and so far. There's no magic to this -- there is focus, hard work, passion and dedication. You can do this as well.