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November 9, 2007

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, NOVEMBER 9, 2007 PAGE 5A By Jacob Schacter NEW YORK (JTA)--In 1985, Robert Bellah co-au- thored a book titled Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in Ameri- can Life, which highlighted the centrality of personal autonomy and individual choice in the United States. As an example of this widespread phenomenon, he described a nurse, Sheila Larson, who "has actually named her re- ligion (she calls it her 'faith') after herself." tn her words, "My faith has carried me a long way. It's Sheilaism. Just my own little voice." In describing her Sheilaism, she says: "It's just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think He would want us to take care of each other." Over 20 years later, "Shei- laism" continues to charac- terize American social and religious life. The Jewish community is not unaffected by this phenomenon, Which continues into the 21st century. In fact, research continues to show that Jews are at the forefront of this trend in America, more than members of any other major religious group. "Jews were considerably more privatized than either Protestants or Catholics," contemporary American so- ciologists of religion Bruce Greer and Wade Clark Roof reported in a 1992 study pub- lished in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. In other words, a higher percentage of Jews deter- mined what Judaism meant to them than Catholics deter- mined what Catholicism was for them and Protestants what Protestantism was for them. Jews are most likely to exer- cise their freedom of choice in defining the substance of their religion. This notion was sharply highlighted in an important book published in 2000 by Steven M. Cohen and Arnold Eisen, The Jew Within: Self, Family and Community in America, which analyzed cur- rent trends in the American Jewish community: The principal authority for contemporaryAmerican Jews, in the absence of compelling religious norms and commu- nal loyalties, has become the sovereign self. Each person now performs the labor of fashioning his or her own self, pulling together elements from the various Jewish and non-Jewish repertoires avail- able rather than stepping into an "inescapable framework" of identity--familial, com- munal, traditional--given at birth. Decisions about ritual ob-- servance and involvement in Jewish institutions are made and made again, considered and reconsidered, year by year and even week by week. American Jews speak of their lives, and of their Jewish beliefs and commitments, as a journey of ongoing ques- tioning and development. They avoid the language of arrival. There are no final answers, no irrevocable commitments. There are no longer any norms that are compelling, there are no loyalties, no fundamental givens. "The sovereign self" reigns su- preme, religious involvement is a journey, and each Jew decides for heror himself what Judaism means. It is in the context of this reality that the General As- sembly of the United Jewish Communities convenes in Nashville this year. We are blessed by the multiplicity of choices America affords us, and we are also challenged by them. How can we, the representatives of a united Jewish community, inspire the millions of Jews not rep- resented at the G.A. to engage meaningfully and seriously in the Jewish community? Two or three generations ago, our challenge--and obligation--seems to have been more clearly defined. New immigrants needed to. be integrated into American society; endangered Jewish populations around the world needed to be rescued; avulner- able and beleaguered Israel needed to be strengthened and supported; vigilance in combating anti-Semitism needed to be exercised; the trauma of the Holocaust and its aftermath needed to be addressed, But today is different. While some of these Jewish com- munal agenda items still are relevant, we face an additional challenge. For us the problem is not how to adjust our people to the manners and mores of society, but how to keep them from vanishing into the abyss of that society. We have come a long way from 1969, almost 40 years ago, when a group of young Jewish activists forced their way into the G.A. of what was then the Council of Jew- ish Federations to demand greater investment in Jewish education, to chastise the Jewish establishment for be- ing insufficiently Jewish in its priorities. Our collective communal priorities have indeed shifted to appreciate the importance of insuring "Jewish continu- ity" by allocating significantly more communal dollars in support of day schools and adult Jewish learning. But more work remains to be done to inspire so many more to engagewith us in the exciting powerful drama, beauty and meaning of Jewishness. In a word, I would say that today we face a challenge of balance: balancing family and careers, balancing work and play, balancing engagement with the universal elements of American culture with the unique content of our Jewish commitments. And particularly as leaders of the American Jewish community, balancing local priorities and national and international needs. Our rabbis teach us that there is a hierarchy to charity. "Aniyei irkha kodmin'--"the poor of your city take prior- ity"--but the poor of other cities also have a claim on our charity dollar as do broader national and international Jewish concerns. It is here, in this context, that we most appreciate the vital importance of the um- brella organization now called the United Jewish Communi- ties. Who else has the larger picture in mind but the UJC? Who else can mount an effort to rescue endangered Jewish populations around the world but the UJC? Who else can - generate substantial political and economic support for a besieged and beleaguered Israel but the UJC? As valuable as personal giv- ing and individual volunteer- ism is, engagement with the broader agenda of the Jewish people is also important. Although a cliche, there is much truth in the phrase: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter is the scholar in residence for the 200 7 General Assembly. A leading voice in the modern Orthodox movement, he is the university professor of Jewish history and Jewish thought and senior scholar at the Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University. By Gary Tobin SAN FRANCISCO (JTA)-- North American federations could and should be doing much better than they are. They matter. They are impor- tant. They embody the ideas of community, common cause and the ability to respond to collective concerns. They are vital institutions andwe want them to succeed. Federations have been the hub of a vast system that involves community centers, family services, bureaus of Jewish education and so many more organizations. But this system is becoming unglued and changes need to be made. This call for action comes from someone who has worked for three decades with more than 70 federations, includ- ing New York, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Baltimore. I have worked as a consultant with the Council of Jew- ish Federations, the United Jewish Appeal, and scores of constituent and beneficiary agencies. I believe that federa- tions are essential. I don't have all the right answers. But I think I have some of the right questions. Telling the truth about endowments Endowments are a big federation success story, but trouble is bubbling both on and below the surface. Many federations proudly promote the size of their endowments, noting how much money is under federation manage- ment. Is it real? Touting an amazing growth of funds un- der the federation roof paints a not-quite-honest picture. Here are some of the key issues that need to be addressed: Part of or apart from the federation? More and more federations are losing control of their endowment funds as they evolve into quasi-independent entities or completely separate organiza- tions. Should endowments be part Of the federation? Separation may not be good for federations. But is it good for Jewish philanthropy and the community? Are endowments Jewish philanthropies or not? A close examination of federation en- dowment funds shows many, if not most, of the grants and dollars from donor-advised funds and supporting founda- tions go to non-Jewish causes. Is this good, bad or unimport- ant for federations? How much do these funds actually help the Jewish community? How should endowments report their holdings? En- dowment funds are really a mixed bag of unrestricted and restricted funds under federa- tion oversight. Philanthropic funds and supporting founda- tions are donor -controlled, not federation-controlled. How can these funds be de- scribed more honestly and accurately? How can endow- ments more truthfully report their giving? How do endowments measure success? Are endow- ments doing well if they man- age more and more money, give money to secular causes or give more to Jewish causes? How do we assess what the outcomes should be for en- dowments? Should endowments spend down? Endowment advocates will tell you that the money they hold on to is for an emergency or a "rainy day." Exactly how hard does it have to rain to loosen up dol- lars? And where does it need to rain--and upon whom? Endowment directors and federation executives--who's in charge? Any healthy busi- ness has to have a clearly functioning chain of com- mand. What happens when the endowment director has more perceived power and authority than the federation executive, as is the case in a number of communities? How can federations align their professional leadership to avoid dysfunctional man- agement? Retooling the broken fed- eration-agency system The federation-agency relation- ship, the core of the fed- eration allocation system, is outmoded. It does not work anymore, especially in the context of a single umbrella campaign. Most of the money that federations give away through the allocations process are entitlements, with the largest amounts going to the same agencies year after year. How can federations develop new, more flexible ways of allocat- ing funds? There has been an explosive growth in the number of in- novative programs and orga- nizations, only some of which now get small, leftover grants. What should the federations' relationship be to these new and growing networks of Jew- ish organizations at the local, national and international level? Who should be in and who should be out? Does the constituent/beneficiary agency structure make sense any more? One example of a regular recipient is the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is one of the major beneficiaries of over- seas funds from the federation system. Many donors have no idea what the Jewish Agency is or what it does, and others are openly hostile to it. What should the federa- tions' relationship be to the Jewish Agency? Are there other organizations in Israel that should be supported as well, or even substituted? Coming to terms with the annual campaign The annual campaign is what built the federation and generates hundreds of mil- lions of dollars annually. But in real dollars it has declined precipitously since 1967 when adjusted for inflation. The donor base is aging, especially for the largest gifts. Among the real questions facing the annual campaign: Does an umbrella cam- paign still make sense? Federations provide a small percentage of the annual operating budgets of many agencies. Should federations raise and distribute money to local agencies, or would it be better to simply help them raise it themselves? Should federations once again consider running one campaign for local needs, and a separate one for Israel as they used to? Donors increasingly want to control where their money goes. Would federa- tions increase the number of donors and how much they ing out to tens of millions of Americans, especially those who support Israel? Part of the problem is name recognition. The United Jew- ish Appeal, UJA, once was the most recognized name or acronym in Jewish life. Should the federation system reclaim the UJA name as part of its ef- fort to revitalize its national campaign? The annual campaign is built on a pyramid, with the largest gifts setting the scale for all gifts. Major gifts have been stagnant at the top, and the pyramid is not high enough anymore. Donors capable of giving $5 million or $10 million to the annual campaign do not do so. How can UJC create national and give by once again splitting~ international peer groups of upthe campaign? And what about the Ameri- can Jewish Joint Distribution Committee? The JDC is well- respected by its donors and serves a particular role in helping needy Jews around the world. Is it time for JDC to go its separate way and run its own national campaign? How can federations turn around their shrinking donor base? The number of donors to the annual campaign is down over the past 20 years. Individual federations may see small blips upward from time to time, especially after a crisis in Israel. Federations invest very little in develop- ing, acquiring and managing donor lists. How can local federations and the United Jewish Communities invest in a national database sys- tem? One potential source of new donations are non-Jews. The vast majority of Americans are supportive of Israel, and many use Jewish community centers, Jewish vocational ser- vices and other Jewish organi- zations. How can federations expand their donor base and annual campaign by reach: the wealthiest donors to radi- cally change the standards of giving? Administration and func- tion Federations are shooting themselves in the foot on some basic administrative issues that seriously harm their image. Some internal housekeeping measures will help them better relate to donors, other Jewish organi- zations and the Jewish public in a healthier way. Overhead issues: Federa- tions perform many services, including community rela- tions, Jewish education and others, as programs within the federation that are viewed as administrative overhead and make the bottom-line fund-raising costs look much Yobln on page 15A THE TWO PALESTI A ANATX II I THE WEST I C NOC AL WAR I ? THE TWO [' UNTIL A 'TER l THE STOR TO / THE N E ATES AT ANNAPOLIS.