Hadassah, Tipping Into Decline?

Hadassah just concluded their 94th national convention in Los Angeles. And at the closing dinner Tuesday night, a prominent Medical Center board member warned the organization was on “the tipping point” into decline.

Two pertinent facts were stated by Stewart Greenebaum during his remarks: in the past year Hadassah’s membership has declined by 6% and dollar donations have decreased by 20%.

So, it appears that like every other organization with USD revenue and NIS expenses, Hadassah is facing the reality of the current exchange rate due to their vast array of needs in Israel. But unlike many U.S. organizations, including some of the largest Federation’s in the U.S. who are showing fundraising revenue increases for 2007, Hadassah appears to be tracking backwards. I wonder how 2008 is progressing.

As an aside, this begs the question of how the apparent shortfall played into the recent WUJS Arad decision and their attempt to begin anew in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Some other articles of interest the past few days; from Haaretz:

Lessons from the New World

European Jews are tired of hearing about their imminent demise. When discussions turn to disaffiliation, ambivalence toward Israel or Jewish leaders without vision, observers of world Jewry often point to Europe as an example not to follow. Negativity takes over, and sometimes we even wonder to ourselves: Do we have a future?

At such moments, Jews fall back on traditional responses. We can wait for the “messiah,” who will bring about the hoped-for European Jewish renaissance. Or we can take our fate into our own hands and work to make our European Jewish communities thrive. But how do we do that?

from the Los Angeles Jewish Journal:

Extending the Birthright privilege

Birthright’s success in awakening a connection to Jewish heritage and Israel is unprecedented in American Jewish life. The number of alumni continues to multiply and their enthusiasm is infusing new energy into American Jewry.

“The core mission of everyone connected with Birthright is to get people on trips, to make sure we have tens of thousands of people going on Taglit-Birthright, opening the door to Jewish identity, because we see that the impact of the program is remarkable,” said Jay Golan, president of the Birthright Israel Foundation, which is the umbrella organization for both Taglit-Birthright and Birthright NEXT.

“That said, people were coming back very energized and not finding an infrastructure or relationship that they could link into comfortably,” he said. “That has to do with the fact that close to 60 percent of Birthright participants are unaffiliated or marginally affiliated, and 10 days gave them a spark, but it didn’t give them substantial exposure to the established Jewish world. The integration process is more difficult than anyone had anticipated.”

On one side, the Jewish establishment, which for years has hoped for greater involvement from young people, has been somewhat stymied in figuring out how to make itself appealing to the iPod generation. On the other side, the established organizations might not be where this generation wants to end up at all. Gen-Yers — those born from the early ’80s to late ’90s — are looking for social networking and creative empowerment, and they often prefer to build their own Jewish milieu rather than step into one already established.

and from the Jerusalem Post:

Birthright – What’s Next?

If you happen to see the enthusiasm of the thousands of students on the Birthright buses in Israel, it’s clear that the idea hatched by Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman has proven a great success.

The big question being debated in the Jewish community is, what’s next? After the intense 10 days, students return home with a renewed commitment to Israel and their Jewish identity. But for most, it’s back to school, friends and a busy life. The brief experience leaves a great impression – it often changes attitudes. But if there is no follow up, it will fade to just another wonderful memory.

Think of Zionism as an answer for materialism

Rabbi Eli Stern, director of special projects at the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, said that there is a “profound identity shift among young Diaspora Jews from assumed Jewish identify to asking why one should be Jewish at all.”