Top JFNA Leaders Visit JCL to Teach and Learn

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

One of the strengths the Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) brings to our community is its affiliation with its parent organizations – Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Jewish Community Centers Association (JCCA). Not only do those associations tie the Jewish community in Louisville in with other Jewish communities across North America, but the national parent organizations provide a wealth of support services that the JCL can tap into to train staff, learn about best practices, do research, get marketing materials and much more.

On Thursday, September 20, JFNA’s president and CEO, Jerry Silverman, and JFNA’s Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence senior executive advisor Deborah K. Smith, came to Louisville to meet with JCL staff and leadership.

Smith conducted in-service training for staff, giving them tools to enhance their interpersonal communications skills. Silverman met with several individuals throughout the day. That evening, both met with JCL’s Board of Directors.

Smith told the board that times have changed and fundraising has changed, too. It is essential that Campaigns cultivate younger donors, and younger donors don’t approach philanthropic giving the way their parents did. They want to know what their dollars are doing and often want to have direct involvement beyond their monetary donation.

The changes extend to the leadership of Jewish organizations as well. Smith cited a 2008 Bronfman study which projects that 70-90 percent of Jewish organizations will change their executives in the next few years. That change has begun, and those organizations are turning to the business world for their new leaders rather than recruiting them from within their own ranks.

She pointed to JCL President and CEO Stu Silberman as an example of the new generation of leaders coming into the system.

Smith said that Louisville’s merger of the Federation and the JCC puts the community on the forefront of the structural changes that are happening across the country. There are lots of permutations of merger, she said. Some communities are merging their back room functions to take advantage of the economies and efficiencies that result from eliminating duplication while maintaining each entity as an independent agency.

Some agencies merge totally, as Louisville did, and others find a way to function somewhere in between.
Silverman spoke of his commitment to improve the services offered to constituent communities and the communications between JFNA and the communities.

In fact, Louisville is the 117th community Silverman has visited since he came to JFNA in 2009. Traveling to the communities, he said, is his job, because only by getting out in the field and talking with people will he know what services and products JFNA needs to provide.

A self-described eternal optimist, Silverman highlighted some of the successes JFNA has accomplished because the leaders rolled up their sleeves and took action on new ideas in the belief that anything is possible.

In 13 years, he said, Birthright Israel has sent 350,000 young adults to Israel and changed a generation. In addition, 40,000 Israeli soldiers have interacted with them, traveling on the Birthright buses with them.
With the help of the Jewish Foundation for Camping, 75,000 children attended Jewish sleepaway camp. Through programs like Partnership 2Gether, 15,000 Israelis came to work in those camps.

The dream of one man led to The PJ Library initiative, and today, 100,000 households across North American receive free high quality Jewish books and CD’s for their young children every month.

We have to balance the challenges with the opportunities they offer, Silverman said to the Board.

Silverman, too, spent some time discussing the different kinds of mergers that are happening in Jewish communities across the country. As Louisville is one of the first to have gone down that path, it will serve as an example for other communities.

Neither Louisville nor JFNA did everything right with our merger, Silverman said, but JFNA is working now to provide additional help to ease the path going forward.

In fact, JFNA is reviewing everything it does and everything it offers to communities to decide if things should change, remain the same or even be eliminated, and what new things the national organization should provide.

Each JCL Board member also has a responsibility, Silverman said, to be an ambassador to the community for the agency. To do that, Board members must educate themselves on what we accomplish together.
He encouraged Board members to go on missions to Israel so they can see firsthand what the dollars we send overseas do, and to visit other federations and JCCs to see what they are doing.

Louisville has made significant progress along its path toward an integrated community, Silverman said, but it still has a way to go. JFNA will be there to provide support along the way. He also encouraged Board members to believe in what they are doing because that goes a long way toward making dreams into reality.

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