JFLV CEO Weekly Message - Have You Heard That Joke...?

Have you heard this joke about the Jewish person on a deserted Island who hasn't made their Federation pledge…
We've all heard the jokes about the person on the deserted island who isn't worried about being rescued because they haven't made their Federation pledge yet.  These bad jokes have been around about as long as there have been Jewish Federations/charities.  Frankly, the Federation wouldn't need an annual campaign if I earned a dollar for every time that someone introduced me in a mixed group of people with, "Watch your wallet around this guy."
The sad part is that when people talk this way about me, or my colleagues, they are not telling the truth about our work on behalf of the community.  We should not ask why more people are not involved in the community when they are given the impression that our Jewish professionals are solely interested in contributions.  So, at the risk of ruining an entire genre of bad jokes about my profession, I would like to set the record straight about the work of the Federation.  Brace yourselves…The Jewish Federation of Las Vegas is not in the business of raising money.
Our "Business" is rooted in the lessons given in Leviticus and Deuteronomy - when the Jewish people are guided to provide for those who are poor and/or without food with dignity and to ensure that their basic needs are met. The commandment to perform these righteous acts has been interpreted as caring for the poor of both Jewish and non-Jewish communities. This interpretation has also directed the Jewish community to create a social welfare system based on individual and communal responsibility to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
It is through this lens that we must view the work of the Jewish Federation and Jewish communal professionals.  The Federation's job — our purpose — is to ensure that the basic needs of our local and global Jewish community are met.  The Jewish Federation of Las Vegas is made up of Jewish and social service organizations, synagogues and schools that provide valued services and programs to recipients in our community, in Israel and around the world. We are also made up of the local residents who support us — including lay leadership, volunteers, donors, professionals staff, rabbis, educators, event participants, students, and all those who contribute their time, skills or funds to a shared vision of our Jewish community and the world.
Now, here's the catch, funding is a necessity and (with no apologies) you may even be offered an opportunity to contribute.  It takes funding to deliver kosher meals to homebound elderly Jews in Las Vegas, to send 80 young adults from Nevada on Birthright every year, to provide Jewish summer camp experiences, to send hundreds of free PJ Library books to nearly 2,000 Jewish children in our community, and to provide a myriad of other services.
I know what you're thinking…other people are taking care of the funding.  The fact is that the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign - The Campaign for Jewish Needs - has just over 1,100 donors  who support our work locally and globally.  You may think that 1,100 is great, and it is, but consider that our Jewish community population (at best estimate) is over 60,000.  That equates to less than 2% of our local Jewish community contributing to the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign - The Campaign for Jewish Needs.
So, if you think that the Federation is interested or concerned with increasing the level of philanthropy in our community — you are exactly right.  If you think that Federation staff and leadership are not going to offer every member of our community an opportunity to participate in the Campaign for Jewish Needs - you are exactly wrong.
In closing, I have one simple request.  The next time that you are introducing or referring to any Jewish communal professional, or lay leader; please consider how you are presenting the real and essential work that they are doing.   Anyone who believes that we put money before mission is truly mistaken.  We are working, every day, to ensure that the vision put forth in the Torah matches the mission in our daily work.  For, as one of my favorite Jewish educators, Arvam Infeld, once said, "If your vision doesn't match your mission, you wander in the desert for 40 years.”


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