In my message last week, I mentioned that I was going to be at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. The GA made international news with a panel discussion with two Jewish Supreme Court Justices, a session with Marlee Matlin “speaking” about inclusion for individuals with special needs, a live video address by PM Netanyahu and a live speech by Vice President Biden.
While all these big plenaries were inspiring and informative, all of us in attendance from Pittsburgh also learned in smaller breakout sessions. We learned about strategies to increase fundraising, how to fight the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel and new models of allocating dollars and measuring impact of those investments.
However, despite all these learnings, I think the biggest takeaway for all of us was that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves or even our local Pittsburgh community. The reach and impact we have as a continental system is immense. During this summer’s Operation Protective Edge, our Federation system secured well over $50 Million for needs in Israel and brought our leaders to Israel on solidarity missions. Currently, our Federation system is committed to raising much needed dollars to assist the Jews in Ukraine to stay safe and warm this winter as violence lingers in the eastern part of that country. There has been an exponential increase in Aliyah from both Ukraine and France this past year and we are helping these Jews make the transition to a new life in Israel. Our work to best integrate new Olim, especially those of Ethiopian descent into Israeli society continues. We have helped to bring Jewish life back to the Former Soviet Union since the collapse of Communism. And I can go on and on.
I know that personally, I return from such gatherings refreshed and reinvigorated. Next year’s GA will once again be in Washington DC and I urge you to mark your calendars now for November 8-10, 2015!