There are many idiosyncrasies that come with involvement in the Jewish community. Two, in particular, are pervasive in nearly every aspect of Jewish life. The first is the use of the Jewish communal language of acronyms. This language is spoken by those deeply involved in the Jewish community who have learned to use acronyms instead of the full names of organizations (i.e. JDC, JAFI, HAIS, etc.). For those who do not speak this language, or those who don't have an enigma machine handy, these are the acronyms for the Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. These, and others, are awesome organizations whose acronyms, unfortunately, don't shed any light on their purpose or mission. This becomes an issue when speaking with those new to the community or those who are not versed in the language. Those of us with fluency in "Jew-cronyms" need to be sure that when we are speaking about our agencies that we use their full names and not get caught in the trap of the Jewish alphabet soup.
The second theme is the concept of membership. This simple ten-letter word has the power to both unite and divide entire Jewish communities. Synagogues hold marathon meetings about the cost of acquiring and retaining members, community members' email and snail-mail boxes are forever filled with asks by countless organizations to renew memberships, and community studies talk about the increase or decrease in membership in the various streams of Judaism. This little word - membership - has had a profound and unquantifiable impact on diaspora Judaism.
The Jewish Federation, fortunately, is free of the constraints of membership. This freedom is inherent in the mission of the Federation - to ensure the survival of the Jewish people - in it's entirety - without pretense or caveats. Additionally, we not only to help Jews in need, but we also strive to help all of those in need in a Jewish way. This mission can not be fulfilled if we were to base our assistance on membership. We simply can not afford to have members, we can not afford to have dues, and we certainly can not afford to have a minimum contribution level. Our network of services is available to the entire Jewish community, regardless of ones financial capacity, country of origin, stream of Judaism, or any other metric that may be used to differentiate service delivery.
The Jewish Federation maintains an annual and endowment campaign, but it is a falsehood that one must make a financial contribution in order to receive the benefits of our work. If this were the case, the Las Vegas Annual Campaign - The Campaign for Jewish Needs - would be exponentially larger. The Campaign for Jewish Needs has approximately 1,200 active supporters who make an annual contribution, yet the Jewish Federation provides services to our community of nearly 70,000 Jews, others in Israel and in 160 countries around the world. One does not need an abacus or all of their fingers and toes to see that there is a significant disparity between the number of people who financially support the Federation's work and those who receive services. The fact is that every member of the Jewish community, and those in need outside of the Jewish community, are eligible to receive assistance from the Federation and it's network of agencies. It is that simple, that clear, that unclouded.
The Jewish Federation of Las Vegas' only limitation to providing services is the level of funding that we receive. As our campaign and our endowment grow, we are able to ensure that more services can be provided to more members of our community. If you would like to assist in this mission, I hope that you will consider making a contribution to our annual campaign by clicking here, and/or consider including the Jewish Federation of Las Vegas in your estate plans.
As always, I welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org