Looking back on 2017 and forward to 2018

Jewish Nevada held its Annual Meeting this past Tuesday. I gave remarks on how our organization and community have evolved over the past year.  I thought I would share them with you in this email.

2017 was a troublesome, invigorating, and inspiring year for our community. There were, as in all years, incredible highs and lows. Last summer we witnessed white supremacists marching, in broad daylight, throughout the streets of an American city attempting to use the first amendment as the new hood under which they hide. But then we saw their hateful actions overcome by nationwide displays of unity, of tolerance, and of a love for all people. We saw women in our country using their voices to give voice to victims, past and present, of abuse, injustice, and harassment. As important, people listened, corporations listened, men listened, and a tectonic shift has taken place that is fundamentally changing our society for the better.

We were all crushed by the horrors and the lives lost on October 1st; but we also found incredible inspiration when our city showed the world that we are a united city, that we do care for our neighbors, and that we aren’t just people living in silos in gated communities. We celebrated when the first U.S. Administration in our history recognized a fact that we have known for quite some time, that Jerusalem is indeed the one, undivided, Capital of the State of Israel.

In our local Jewish community, Jewish Nevada worked in concert with our community partners and legislators and others to help pass our state’s anti-BDS bill.  Jewish Family Service Agency successfully moved into it’s new and improved offices and is growing the scope of its operations. The Sperling Kronberg Mack Holocaust Resource Center is thriving in it’s new home at Midbar Kodesh Temple. The Jewish Community Center delegation to the Maccabee games this year was the largest of any other North American community with 36 participants.  Jewish Nevada created a stand-alone space for Hillel in Las Vegas where students can now have their own programs and their own Shabbat dinners. Hillel in Northern Nevada has also seen an increase in campus activity, programming, participation. These are all achievements that should instill a sense of pride for our community.  

This past year also saw a change in the way that Jewish Nevada works with and in the community.  We instituted new initiatives and processes to our work in 2017.  The goal of these new aspects is to fundamentally transform our community, not just this year, but generationally.

The Right Start pre-school program

Our leadership had a vision to engage the youngest members of our community and their parents while also helping to support the earliest years of Jewish education and the schools and synagogues that provide that education.  This vision led to partnering with the Jewish Federation of Chicago (JUF) in launching the Right Start Initiative earlier this year. Right Start provides non-need based financial incentives to families who have never sent their children to Jewish pre-school. I am proud to say that all eight of the Jewish pre-schools in Southern Nevada have joined in this initiative. Our goal is to have over 60 children attend Jewish preschool in our community next year for the first time.

One Happy Camper

While preschool is essential to Jewish continuity, studies show that Jewish overnight camp is one of the most impactful, if not the most impactful, contributor to a child’s connection to their Judaism later in life. Knowing the impact of Jewish Overnight Camp; we have been selling our future short by not ensuring that every Jewish child in our community can attend overnight camp. To this end, Jewish Nevada has partnered with the Foundation for Jewish Camping and has brought the One Happy Camper program to Nevada. Through One Happy Camper, every child who has never attended a Jewish Overnight camp will have their first year heavily subsidized by Jewish Nevada. Our goal is to send over 60 children to Jewish overnight camp for the first time this year.

Life and Legacy

The immediate needs of organizations are always a priority.  Anyone who has ever attended a Jewish community event, and was placed on a mailing list, knows the importance of annual fundraising drives.  Unfortunately, this constant focus on annual fundraising leaves limited time and resources for the more sustaining form of development – endowment development. Simply put, if endowment funds are the safety net for an organization – and they are – our community, on a macro level, is not prepared for the future in terms of endowment development.

Therefore, Jewish Nevada has partnered with the Harold Grinspoon foundation to bring the Life and Legacy program to our community. Through Life and Legacy, partner organizations will receive expert training in all facets of endowment development and will also receive incentive grants to encourage the growth their endowment funds. Eleven organizations, including one in Northern Nevada, have signed on to participate in Life and Legacy. Our goal is to have 180 new endowment commitments in this first year and over 500 in four years.     

The Jewish Nevada Allocations Process

Jewish Nevada is not in the business of “Running” the community, rather, we are in the business of “Leading” the community. The leadership position that we have assumed has manifested itself in fundamental changes to the Jewish Nevada allocations process. After a detailed review of our allocations process, our leadership noticed an inherent flaw. When our investors, our donors, would ask how we’ve utilized their philanthropy, we had no better answer than, “We gave it to X organization for Y program.” That is not a good enough answer and does not represent the accountability and transparency for which we strive.

Thus, the Jewish Nevada allocations committee and board of directors created a new model for allocations that more effectively maximizes the philanthropic intent of our donors. The metrics moving forward are impact, transparency, and the extent to which our allocations are transforming our community. I and our leadership understand this change in our approach will require more work in the short term for our grant recipients and for Jewish Nevada. But the growing pains will result in a renewed model of accountability, a renewed model of transparency, and most importantly a renewed focus on how programs and initiatives in our community maximize the impact of our donors’ philanthropy.

At our recent Annual Meeting, Jewish Nevada also recognized the lifetime of leadership of Elaine Galatz and Arthur Marshall.  I am sure that I echo the sentiment of other Jewish professionals when I say that having Elaine and Art as leaders has made all of us better professionals and has made our organizations stronger and more effective. We, as a community, have all applauded Elaine and Art and we’ve admired their families and the legacy that they have cemented…but that is not enough. If we are truly going to appreciate Elaine, Art, and the leaders who have afforded us the opportunity to have a Jewish community in Nevada, we will need to follow their lead.  We will need to commit to collaborating, to working with integrity and passion, and to constantly striving for a better community based on the values that bind us as a Jewish people.

I am looking forward to a wonderful 2018 with more growth and success for our Jewish community in Nevada.


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