United Jewish America (UJA) Press Conference Report

press conferenceRemarks by Robert Lichtman:

Thank you for joining me at our inaugural press conference of UJA – United Jewish America.

[SLIDE: UJA logo]

It is often observed that the Jewish community has never been richer, more powerful, confident or creative. Never in our history have we been more interconnected – learning about, with and from each other. Never before have we enjoyed the social, economic and political ability to define our destiny. Now, we intend to harness these historic attributes and dedicate our efforts to equally historic goals.

[SLIDE: UJA “Pledge Card”]

UJA has evolved into a coalition of federations and other activist organizations in North America that are pledged to work exclusively towards the following goals:

  • No Jew will go to bed hungry.
  • No Jew will worry about having a safe place to sleep.
  • No Jew will be unaided in his or her search for employment.

While these are absolute human rights, and while we continue to support the work of governments, NGO’s, Jewish and public foundations and nonprofits to achieve those measures of justice in our society as mandated by Jewish tradition, we pledge our God-given blessings of wealth and creativity for which our Jewish community is so famously acclaimed to fulfill our sacred obligation to our Jewish People – to solve these struggles now and with a passion that is inspired by the vision of our Torah and the impatience of our prophets.

I could be more articulate about these goals. I could recount statistics or paint word pictures that depict the plight of Jews here and around the world who would be abandoned save for us. But I need not, for we as a community can be no more eloquent than by declaring these words that in all of history have never been uttered, and the pursuit of which ennoble us as we aspire to attain unprecedented achievements:

UJA pledges that:

  • No Jew will go to bed hungry.
  • No Jew will worry about having a safe place to sleep.
  • No Jew will be unaided in his or her search for employment.

[SLIDE: Planet Earth]

To the extent that the Government of Israel, The Jewish Agency, Israeli amutot or the American Joint Distribution Committee adopt these goals, UJA will partner with them to advance these efforts in Israel and overseas. UJA will not conflate issues or confuse its investors by involving political, communal, religious or military leaders in activities other than those that are directly related to ending Jewish hunger, homelessness and joblessness in our time.

[SLIDE: North American Map depicting “Regions”]

UJA has been empowered to convene, coordinate and financially support the combined efforts of regional groups comprised of federations, foundations, nonprofits, synagogues and community organizations to plan and implement the activities to get to goal. These regional groups will not be circumscribed by conventional political barriers, but will be defined through organic communal and economic activities that often extend beyond such arbitrary boundaries.

[SLIDE: Tree of Knowledge intertwined with Menorah of the State of Israel intertwined with Tree of Life]

UJA will also fund Jewish education in North America through day schools that:

  1. Inspire current and future generations to continue the pursuit of these goals,
  2. Connect current and future generations with the global Jewish community and the State and People of Israel, and
  3. Seek to enrich the human experience through the entirety of Jewish tradition, knowledge, values, culture, practice and the Hebrew language.

UJA will focus its energies here to ease the crushing burden of tuitions on young families by making Jewish day school education affordable. For their part, day schools will extend their range to involve children and families who are not enrolled in the school, to provide year-round public space and community-based activities led by passionate and knowledgeable professional educators who will inspire individuals and families to enhance their lives through Jewish knowledge and experiences.

UJA funding of our three historic imperatives: ending Jewish hunger, homelessness and joblessness, as well as creating greater accessibility to the educational power of Jewish day schools to sustain pursuit of these goals in the future will be calibrated through ongoing assessment and evaluation.

[SLIDE: UJA logo + “MEDA” – Measurement, Evaluation, Data Analysis; pronounced mee-DA, Hebrew for “measure, characteristic”]

As the activist – philanthropic center of North American Jewry, UJA will own and operate MEDA to provide independent ongoing evaluation of the major initiatives undertaken at the regional level. We will share, in real time, practices that may be emulated or avoided so that all regions may advance towards these goals as quickly and effectively as possible. UJA will practice the philosophy that dollars should be invested where most measurably effective; funding may be re-balanced from region to region based on needs and outcomes. Programs that do not meet stated goals or that are deemed ineffective will be publicly identified as such and UJA’s funding will be withdrawn.

MEDA will field a continental demographic survey every 5 years to inform our progress and potential to reach the goals I have outlined today.

[SLIDE: UJA logo + Slogan, “We Are One.”]

Progress to these goals, regionally and continentally, will be announced annually and publicly. This is how we shall be judged by our investors, by our community, by our children, and by history.

I am happy to take your questions.

Robert Lichtman is enjoying over 30 years of Jewish professional leadership and is the Founding Executive Director of The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life in Greater MetroWest NJ.
December 10, 2014
18 Kislev 5775