How Synagogues can Prioritize Disability Inclusion this High Holiday Season

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By Jay Ruderman With the High Holidays just around the corner, Jews all over the world will be asking themselves how they can lead more meaningful and moral lives. Synagogue communities, too, will be asking themselves how they can become more holy and inclusive communities. In my years of involvement with disability inclusion, I’ve observed that change often occurs because a rabbi, a professional or a lay leader understands the value of inclusion of all people and makes it a priority. If there ever was a time for leaders to step up to the plate and help their synagogues become more inclusive - to welcome diverse people with varying abilities and find a place for them in the community - it’s during the Days of Awe. Liz Offen, director of New England Yachad, an Orthodox Union-affiliated … [Read more...]

Jacobs’ Ladder: Remembering the Jewish Community’s Relief Efforts a Decade after Katrina

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By Jonathan "JC" Cohen "[Jacob] dreamt that he saw a ladder reaching from earth to heaven, with angels going up and coming down on it... And Jacob woke up and said, "God is here! God is in this place, and I didn't know it!" (Genesis 28:12, 16) When people ask me about my experiences immediately following Hurricane Katrina, I find myself sharing the same few stories again and again. I think it's because, for me, they powerfully illustrate how God was with us through those long, emotion-packed days and weeks. … [Read more...]

The Iran Deal – a View from the Trenches

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By Keith Krivitzky I want to share with you some troubling aspects of this Iran deal that don’t primarily have to do with the deal itself, but with some of the reactions and ramifications I have been seeing from my perch at a Jewish Federation. 1. There is increasing vitriol in our discourse, and a lack of respect and tolerance for diverse viewpoints. In response to the approach our Federation has taken (which I think is smart and strategic, but did not consist of telling people simply to vote yes or no), here are some of the epithets shared with me: Dirty Traitor Shame on you (several times) You are worse than the enemies of the Jewish people You are responsible (in part) for the deaths of 4000 Americans in the Iraq war You are spineless You are just as bad as those who stood by … [Read more...]

How Moishe House Looks Different Post Evaluation

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By Jen Rosen As a former foundation professional, I have always enjoyed perusing organizations’ impact studies. I know, I know; nerd alert ... I love data! Needless to say, when we had the opportunity to conduct our first external evaluation in 2011, I was a bit giddy. What came out of that process was fantastic: a clearly stated vision of Moishe House’s intended impact, data confirming effectiveness of the model, and most importantly, findings that enabled us to better understand our actual audience, their needs and the opportunities to maximize the program’s impact on them. Repeating and enhancing the process this past year was a real privilege, again, not just to confirm that what we are doing is working (and overall it is!), but more importantly, to be able to continue tweaking and … [Read more...]

Synagogue Leadership Development Is a Campaign, Not a Training Course

By Robert Leventhal After 13 years as a congregational consultant at the Alban Institute working with hundreds of synagogues of all denominations, I was asked in 2011 to join the team that would build a comprehensive leadership development program for Conservative congregations affiliated with United Synagogue. Our first step was to survey synagogue management about their leadership development practices. Leaders from 141 congregations answered numerous questions about succession planning, turnover, orientation and board training. We learned that lack of clear organizational structure and defined roles for leaders often made the work of president seem unmanageable. Absence of term limits made it difficult to encourage a stream of new leadership. There was little to no systemic development or … [Read more...]

A Heritage Lost: The Federations and Iran

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By Jeffrey R Solomon In his classic work, A Heritage Affirmed: the Jewish Federation Movement in America, Harry Lurie provides the classic text on the role and functions of Federations. Many Federations like to use the metaphor of “community” in self-describing their activities. For others, “central address” is the key metaphor. Lurie explains this through offering a history of the Jewish communities’ development over the millennia and how it was organized as the Federation movement in North America. He describes two main categories of functions. The first pertains to the necessary activities for the support of the “welfare and cultural programs and to enlisting the cooperation of individuals and group for communal actions for a broad range of interests and problems.” He describes the role of … [Read more...]

An Investment in Social Entrepreneurs Yields Real Value, Unexpected and Welcome Returns

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By Lisa Lepson In the late 1990s, many of us saw a Jewish community with great potential for change. But it lagged far behind in nourishing new ideas. Specific segments of the Jewish community received very little attention or were being ignored almost entirely: LGBT Jews, Jews of color, young Jewish leaders - to name only a few. In response to these problems, Joshua Venture Group (JVG) launched its signature Dual Investment Program back in 2000 (known at the time as “the Fellowship”) to invest in the leadership and visions of young Jews to build a more vibrant and resonant Jewish life. It was a novel idea at the time - a dual investment in both people and projects - with the modest expectation that this process would yield a handful of new organizations reflecting the priorities and … [Read more...]