BY SUSANNA LACHS ADLER
It is my honor and privilege to take on my new role of chair of the board of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. At this pivotal time for our diverse Jewish communities in our country and in the world, I am grateful for our legacy of 115 years as the foundational hub serving the needs of Jews locally in Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, Chester and Montgomery counties; in Israel; and globally. As current events demonstrate, we remain as vibrant, impactful and necessary as ever. Our future depends upon continuing to inspire and engage all of us.
We are truly this region’s center of Jewish philanthropy. This year, we distributed more than $30 million in grants and financial support throughout Greater Philadelphia, in Israel and in 70 other countries around the world. We also manage the local Jewish community’s largest pool of endowment-related assets, totaling nearly $300 million. All of that makes us among the top five philanthropic organizations in Philadelphia. Yet, as amazing as that is, there is room to grow: When we measure our giving against that of our Jewish community peers in other large U.S. cities, we are not even in the top 10. I challenge us all to move this needle upward significantly. In order to do so, we must prioritize support for our Jewish Federation among our philanthropic commitments.
The strength of our Jewish Federation is the collective impact we make through coordinating the work of all of our partner program providers, together with the value-added funding we deliver through facilities and other direct services. Every dollar the Jewish Federation raises is a strategic investment that knowledgeably and efficiently addresses our communities’ needs. Our grants are informed by extensive research, planning and experience, and followed up with meticulous accountability. As a result, we make a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews, year in and year out, through an incredible array of social service, and Jewish education and identity-building programs.
The sheer span is breathtaking: from birth to preschool; from teenagers to college students; to young professionals; to interfaith families; to our people with disabilities; to those who are hungry and in need of a meal; to those who hunger to connect, belong and learn; to our older adults, to whom we owe all our love, respect and gratitude.
We are there, helping to Carry the Light of Jewish values. We do so by continuing our longstanding work of strengthening synagogues, as well as supporting other innovative, pluralistic forms of Jewish community-building and connectivity, which are becoming foundations of 21st-century Jewish life. This moment represents a tremendous opportunity to honor our traditional institutions while also reimagining the way Jewish life can continue to grow. In so doing, we are cultivating our next generation of young leaders, helping to build a strong and proud Jewish future.
But the Jewish Federation is even more than just a powerful philanthropy. We are also a leader and mobilizer of our Jewish community. As the need rapidly grows for public advocacy of our Jewish voices, Jewish Federation serves as the convener of the region’s Jewish organizations and, in times of crisis, the catalyst for action.
Back in March, when the Mount Carmel Cemetery was desecrated by vandals, the Jewish Federation mobilized, connecting more than 300 volunteers with hands-on opportunities to repair and document the damage, as well as securing more than $220,000 in donations from nearly 3,000 households of all faith traditions. It was also our Jewish Federation that spearheaded “Stand Against Hate,” a unifying rally on Independence Mall of some 5,000 citizens, including clergy and elected officials, raising our voices to condemn acts of hatred and violence and to reinforce our shared belief in the power of peace. And as anyone who heard or read about the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville knows, our work as a Jewish community in opposing hatred and pursuing peace — rodeph shalom — has only begun.
Everything the Jewish Federation does — every life we touch in Philadelphia, Israel and around the world — is possible only thanks to the devotion of our unique partnership: a seamless whole of philanthropists, volunteers, professionals, partner organizations and agencies, all working together, guided by our collective core values of Giving, Inclusion and Tradition.
It is only through everyone’s participation that the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is strong, smart and secure enough to accomplish all that we do and need to do. For all of that, I thank you. I look forward to serving you over the next three years as your board chair. I encourage you to email me with your feedback and suggestions at [email protected]. And today I invite every one of you, whether you are deeply involved in Jewish Federation or a relative newcomer, to allow yourself to discover, and rediscover our Jewish Federation. Allow yourselves to be delighted, motivated and amazed by our ability to effect positive change in our community, and in our world. And help us move up in the ranks of generosity through your support.