Jewish Federation Gets Local Community to “Come Together”

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The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia are featuring two ways — among many — that they are convening the Jewish community.

A vital aspect of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s work as the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community’s central address is bringing together the leaders of local synagogues and other organizations to address the community’s needs and strengthen it for the future. “Given the Jewish Federation’s role as a funder of so many different projects, we need to truly understand our community, and we can’t do that unless we bring together and talk to leaders, and community members who benefit from the projects we fund,” said Barbara Hirsh, Director of the Jewish Federation’s Center for Jewish Life and Learning. “We must continually convene people to dialogue with and learn from one another.”
Featured below are two ways — among many — that the Jewish Federation is convening the Jewish community: Synagogue Forums and the EDJE (Education, Development and Jewish Enrichment) program for Jewish communal professionals.
Synagogue Forums
For the first time in approximately 20 years, the Jewish Federation reached out to rabbis and presidents from every Greater Philadelphia synagogue to bring together as many leaders as possible to explore how the Jewish Federation and synagogues can better support one another. More than 60 leaders from 35 organizations took time to be part of a relationship-building effort Rabbi Deborah Glanzberg-Krainin, the Jewish Federation’s Chief Program and Strategy Officer, described as “extremely successful. What we wanted was the opportunity for very open, honest dialogue, to hear how we can work together to better serve our Jewish community,” said Glanzberg-Krainin. “We definitely got that.”
The Jewish Federation hosted three forums at three different synagogues: Temple Sinai in Dresher and Temple Brith Achim in King of Prussia in January, and Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia last week. Jewish Federation President Bud Newman and CEO Naomi L. Adler, Esq., attended each forum.
“With all the challenges facing the Jewish community today, having mutually supportive relationships between the Jewish Federation and synagogues is essential,” said Rabbi Jeff Sultar of Congregation B’nai Jacob in Phoenixville. “Neither the Jewish Federation nor synagogues will thrive on their own, without the efforts and support of each other. The meeting between Jewish Federation leaders and synagogue presidents and rabbis not only had a strong symbolic value about how the Jewish Federation values these relationships, but also helped start an actual conversation that will only strengthen the Jewish community of Greater Philadelphia.”
Glanzberg-Krainin said that a key finding from the forums was that “synagogue life is different in each of the five counties. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to how synagogues address various issues.” She also noted that conversations about further leveraging Jewish Federation technologies to benefit the entire community, such as live-streaming events, were very valuable.
As a next step, the Jewish Federation will be sharing summaries from the three sessions with all participants. Additionally, the Jewish Federation will be deciding what key findings can be acted on and implemented in the next program year, to better support synagogues and congregants. Since nearly every participant said they wanted to continue engaging in discussions like these once or twice a year, the Jewish Federation plans to continue holding these forums.
Education, Development and Jewish Enrichment (EDJE)
In the  fall of 2014, the Jewish Federation launched EDJE to provide professional development opportunities to Jewish professionals in Greater Philadelphia. To date, more than 100 attendees have benefited from 10 EDJE workshops covering everything from social media to program evaluation. Topics are chosen based on “what training people say they need, as well as from our vantage point as community convener, what issues we see are affecting a lot of organizations,” said Warren Hoffman, the Jewish Federation’s Associate Director of Community Programming.
Sessions are led by Greater Philadelphia’s top practitioners and experts, and aim to help Jewish professionals and their organizations be on the cutting edge of nonprofit best practices. “Our goal is to bring the best that the city has to offer to our Jewish professionals,” said Hoffman.
The next EDJE workshop is being held on Tuesday, March 15th, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Jewish Community Services Building, 2100 Arch Street in Philadelphia. The topic is Start with Why: Elevator Speech Workshop for Nonprofit Professionals. This interactive workshop, which will be led by Dave Gloss, co-founder of Philadelphia-based creative agency Here’s My Chance, will help participants develop language to ideally inspire prospective board members, donors, partners and supporters to give more of their time and dollars.
For more information on EDJE contact Warren Hoffman at 215.832.0570 or whoffman@jfgp.org, or visit jewishphilly.org/edje.
“The synagogue forums and EDJE are part and parcel of our work because we must create multi-directional channels of communication,” said Hirsh. “We can’t know the needs in the community, what’s working and what should change unless we are in constant communication.”
Hirsh noted that the Jewish Federation also regularly brings together heads of Jewish day and overnight camps, heads of local Jewish day schools and representatives from local neighborhoods for idea-sharing. Next on the horizon in the Jewish Federation’s convening efforts: uniting teenagers, parents, synagogues, schools, camps, funders and anyone else involved with Jewish teenagers to develop a community-wide strategic approach to engaging teens in Jewish life.
Hirsh emphasized the importance of communications efforts like these to the Jewish Federation’s work of strengthening the community: “Our arena is the entire community and our perch is 30,000 feet. We are in the best position to plan on behalf of the entire community, and we can only do that by engaging the entire community.”

 

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