A Simple Equation for the New Year
JFMD CEO Scott Kaufman reflects on the mission of Federation and its important relationship with the Detroit Jewish community.
My friends sometimes tease me that I have the “hardest job in the world,” as I often face a number of challenges on a broad spectrum of community and global Jewish issues—and sometimes even complaints. What they don’t know is that, in fact, I have the very best job in the world: I have a front row seat to the amazing things taking place in our Detroit community and around the Jewish world every single day.
In my job, I have the benefit of seeing the phenomenal work done by Federation and our partner agencies. Throughout the year, I meet thousands of people whose lives are changed by what we collectively accomplish. Recently I was at a meeting with 25 young, post-Army Israelis from our Partnership region in the Central Galilee, visiting Detroit as part of a Birthright Israel leadership program. The common theme among this next generation of Israeli leaders was that their experience in Detroit, as well as their time with their peers from Detroit on their recent Birthright trip to Israel, made them feel like more than just Israelis—for the first time they felt part of the Jewish people. And, a few weeks ago, I had lunch with 100-year-old Aaron Berg and his lovely wife Millie. The Bergs have been donors to our annual campaign for over 70 straight years! Aaron choked up when describing landing on the tarmac over a half century ago on his first visit to Israel. One of the real blessings of my job is that I get to spend time with people like the Bergs, who are so passionate about our community.
Many companies have a product or service that is virtually indistinguishable from its competitors, relying on catchy advertising to attract customers. At Federation, our ‘product’ is unique and extremely special: We take care of the needs of the Jewish people and work to build a vibrant Jewish future, in Detroit, in Israel and around the world. To accomplish this, we play a number of roles, including fundraiser, event planner, educator, community builder and more, and often our biggest challenge is explaining what we do. To me, it’s quite simple: A strong Federation equals a strong Jewish Community.
There is another component to this equation, however: A strong community is the product of a strong Annual Campaign.
Over the years, the commitment of our donors has sustained our ability to meet our community’s needs for generations. Today, we remain extremely grateful to their remarkable generosity while, at the same time, we are focusing on growing the engagement and participation of Jews throughout Jewish Detroit. Each and every individual counts, and each gift is important. I dream of a time when we have 100% participation in Jewish life—including a gift to the Annual Campaign at whatever level is meaningful to that individual. We are on a good path toward that goal, having secured almost 2,000 new donors this year alone. If you haven’t given to the campaign yet, please consider this: Your gift, along with those of your fellow Jews throughout the community, allows us to take care of Jews in need today while building a vibrant Jewish future for our children and grandchildren.
It is New Years in our Jewish calendar, a moment for reflection. As I look back on the past year, I am so grateful for the commitment and generosity that this remarkable community has offered Federation and our agencies and the many Jewish individuals we support. I am tremendously proud to be a Jewish Detroiter, and to be a part of the remarkable things we’ve accomplished. At Rosh Hashanah we also look to the year ahead, and as I do so, I am filled with enthusiasm and excitement. In the words of our Annual Campaign theme, we are poised to Step Forward into the future, towards security, harmony, and prosperity. Join us.
May you all enjoy a peaceful Rosh Hashanah.