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entries tagged with: Alan Scharfstein


UJA-NNJ head moving on to ‘next chapter’

Last week, after eight years as executive vice president of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, Howard Charish announced that he will leave the organization in December.

While it was not a sudden decision, he said, “it surprised many people. It’s not something one predicts.”

Still, he said, the response to his announcement has been very rewarding.

“You never know when you touch someone’s life,” he said. “At times like this you find out.”

Charish said he chose this time to leave because “as I reviewed the progress of the North Jersey federation, I saw that we were much better poised to move forward than during the past couple of years.”

It was a good time, he said, “to hand the baton on and move forward.”

Looking over the changes during the past eight years, both global and local, the UJA-NNJ head said the current economic situation is unparalleled in most people’s lifetimes. “This has had a real impact on how we do business,” he noted. In addition, he said, “Israel is under siege and more vulnerable than at any other recent time in history.”

In the local federation, as in federations around the country, “the biggest challenge is to engage the next generation, to get the next generation — with their vision and their willingness to grow the community — to step up,” said Charish.

That is already happening to some extent here, he said, citing the Berrie Fellows initiative as a major factor. The grant program produced its first cohort in 2004.

“We have 44 alumni who currently have assumed the presidencies of day schools, synagogues, and agencies,” he said, “and if you listen to them, they speak in a new language that is anchored in Jewish values and thought as well as cutting-edge leadership protocols.”

“[Another] advantage of the fellowship is that it includes men and women from all streams of Judaism, all parts of northern New Jersey, breaking down walls” and fostering collaboration. “It’s great to see,” he said.

Charish said he is particularly proud of the local federation’s enhanced relationship with Israel, through the Partnership 2000 initiative and the continuation of ties developed during Project Renewal.

In addition, “I am gratified that we were able to move our headquarters to a safe, secure building after 9/11. The old building was on stilts, and we were told to change our headquarters for security reasons.”

While the new building took three years to find, “Today, operating expenses at the old building and the one on Eisenhower Drive are the same,” he said. “We have a hospitable, secure facility.”

During his tenure, Charish oversaw the merger of two federations, UJA Federation of Bergen County & North Hudson and the Jewish Federation of North Jersey.

“We had two federations in one geographic area. Where there were two previous efforts at merger that didn’t succeed, we finally did so, bringing two strong communities together.”

He is also proud of federation’s growing role “as concerned citizens of the overall community,” creating such programs as Bergen Reads, Mitzvah Day, and Bonim Builders, as well as crews of volunteers who have helped clean up the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“During the economic crisis we raised additional sums on top of the annual campaign to work with Project Ezra and Tomchei Shabbos to provide relief,” said Charish. “We also developed a pro bono professional network, coaching and providing real services to people who otherwise could not have afforded that help.”

Such crises, he said, have “brought out the best in everyone. This community stands tall for responding to crises. We raised over $6 million for the second Israel emergency campaign, over $400,000 for Katrina, and $200,000 for Haiti. It demonstrates that this community has a big heart and is very generous.”

Engaging the next generation is only one of the challenges facing federation, said Charish. Another is “providing customization so donors feel they are connected to their gift.”

“While the concept of a collective pool is as important as ever and gives us the flexibility to respond, in today’s environment donors — particularly younger donors — want to follow the dollars, and we need to provide the way [for them] to do so.”

His successor, he said, will need to have both vision and the ability to take risks. In addition, he or she must be able to build relationships and must have a passion for Jewish life.

Reviewing his own career, Charish — who has not yet decided on his future course — said, “I’ve been privileged to participate in some of the great events of Jewish life, including the Soviet Jewry movement.”

Not only did he travel to Russia to visit refuseniks, he said, but he went to Ethiopia twice as part of Operation Promise, which joined federations across the country in an effort to address the needs of vulnerable Jewish populations. In Ethiopia, funds were used to provide food, medical attention, and education, as well as to prepare Jews there for aliyah and absorption into Israeli society.

In addition, before coming to this community, he was involved in a federation initiative to revitalize the Argentina Jewish community.

“I realize how blessed I’ve been to have had a part in repairing the world,” he said. “I’m excited about the future, looking forward to the next chapter, and grateful that I had this time in northern New Jersey with outstanding volunteer leaders and staff. I’m in awe of my executive and professional colleagues.”

Alan Scharfstein, now entering his third year as UJA-NNJ president, pointed out that Charish’s term of office will have been “one of the longest tenures of someone in that position.”

“He has accomplished a tremendous amount,” he said, citing the merger of the two federations and the move into the new headquarters. Also, he stressed, it was under Charish that the group’s new strategic plan was crafted and will soon be launched.

Scharfstein said he will soon appoint a search committee to find a new leader, looking for “an individual with energy, enthusiasm, and the vision to lead us into the future.”

The federation has already undertaken the process of creating a “road map,” he said, “which will change the future of UJA in many ways.”

“The greatest challenge facing our federation and others is how to engage and motivate the next generation of Jewish leaders,” he said, echoing Charish. “Our focus has got to change in order to attract and motivate the younger generation of Jews.”

“We know that the next generation wants to follow their money in a more hands-on way,” said Scharfstein. “Saying ‘Trust us’ is not enough. We have to both do the right thing and have more transparency in using money. We also have to leverage our dollars better.”

Scharfstein said there’s a perception that people donate, “and federation has an infrastructure and overhead and less goes to the community. We’re engaged in a program where every dollar we collect is leveraged to generate more money.”

He cited the Kehillah Partnership — which facilitates joint purchasing — as an example of this trend, noting that it saves “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The strategic plan also includes a program through which federation will hire a grant writer available to all constituent agencies, “giving them access to federal, state, and private grants.”

In this way and others, he said, “we’ll leverage dollars to provide more dollars.”

The new executive vice president, Scharfstein said, must “understand the strategic plan and be committed to implement it, [having the] capability of engaging the next generation and the financial skills needed to continue the program of leveraging dollars.”

Scharfstein said the board expressed “thankfulness and appreciation” to Charish not only for his many achievements but, in agreeing to remain until December, “for giving us enough time to have a logical and thoughtful process to find a replacement.”

“He’s the ultimate professional and consummate gentleman,” said Scharfstein, managing his departure “the way he’s done everything else, with concern for how it will affect the community.”

The federation president said he expects the strategic plan implementation process to be a multi-year initiative.

“It gives us the ability to bring an executive on board to be with us throughout this process,” he said. “It’s an exciting point in the life of the federation.”

He also cited the contribution of young leaders in this effort, pointing out that “an extraordinary group” has come to the fore at the federation. “We’re lucky to be where we are.”

Scharfstein pointed out that the federation campaign “is on target for our goals for the year and we’re still working hard to achieve them.” In addition, he said, from the financial management standpoint, “We’ve hit a target we haven’t hit in years,” paying all constituent agencies their full allocations within the fiscal year.

“In recent years, we always paid as allocated, but not as promptly as we would like,” he said. “The financial crisis has caused us to put greater emphasis on financial management and planning. We planned much better this year and executed much better. We have not let the crisis go to waste.”


Local delegates laud this year’s GA

UJA-NNJ GA delegation members, from left, Stuart Himmelfarb, Richard and Allyn Michaelson, Paula Shaiman, David and Gale S. Bindelglass, David Goodman, Rochelle Shoretz, Alan and Karen Scharfstein, Carol and Alan Silberstein, David Gad-Harf, Joan Krieger, two Hillel students, and Leonard Cole, at a reception Sunday night. Courtesy Stuart Himmelfarb

Thousands of Jewish communal leaders from around the world gathered earlier this week in New Orleans for the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, the biggest pow-wow of Jewish leaders in the world.

UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey sent a 17-member delegation, led by co-chairs Gale S. and David Bindelglass of Franklin Lakes. The event was headlined by speeches from Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who both spoke of the strong U.S.-Israel relationship, but the conference centered on cultivating the next generation of Jewish leaders, and the local participants felt the push to get the younger leaders involved.

“The real focus of this year’s GA was on youth, the next generation,” said Alan Scharfstein, president of UJA-NNJ, who noted that more than 700 college students attended the conference through Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. “It was the youngest GA that I can certainly remember.”

“It just gave a new amount of added energy to the GA,” said David Gad-Harf, UJA-NNJ’s associate executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Leonard Cole, a Ridgewood resident who is a past chairman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and a local proponent of Birthright Israel, praised the GA’s efforts to reach out to the younger leaders.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a strong push toward engagement of this younger generation,” he said.

The new push can also be seen through the lens of the Jewish Agency for Israel, which recently completed a strategic plan to shift its focus from promoting aliyah to enhancing Jewish identity in the diaspora.

“Certainly aliyah is an important part of the Jewish Agency’s mission,” Cole said, “though they understand that the greater danger to the Jewish people is assimilation and easier opportunities for Jews to leave the fold. Now it’s going to be a focus of the Jewish Agency to strengthen and enhance the Jewish identity of Jews everywhere.”

Natan Sharansky, chair of JAFI and a former Soviet dissident who spent years in Soviet prison, addressed the UJA-NNJ contingent during a private meeting, for the second year in a row.

“All of us recognized the honor and sense of privilege to be sitting in a room with this transcendent figure,” Cole said.

“It was moving,” Gad-Harf said, “how Sharansky articulated a vision of the future of the Jewish Agency and the role it will be playing to create a deeper sense of Jewish identity for young Jews and how that is essential to the future of the Jewish people.”

During his plenary speech, Netanyahu spoke strongly about the need for a “credible military threat” against Iran in order for any negotiations about its nuclear ambitions to bear fruit.

“He was very focused and very outspoken on the dangers of Iran and trying to make sure that the world takes Iran as seriously as Israel does in terms of the threat it creates, not only for Israel but for stability in the region and beyond,” Scharfstein said.

Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, had three goals, which Netanyahu touched upon, said Stuart Himmelfarb, chief marketing officer and director of its Berrie Fellows Leadership Program: To understand perils, to take advantage of all opportunities, and to forge unity within the Jewish people and the Jewish community.

“Netanyahu really addressed all three of those,” Himmelfarb said. “He spoke about the perils posed by Iran and the need for a coordinated response.”

When Netanyahu turned to the topic of the peace process with the Palestinians, he said that Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinian people to a Palestinian state and the Palestinians need to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a Jewish state, Himmelfarb reported.

Several Israeli policies concerning conversions, the loyalty oath, and religious equality have ruffled feathers in the diaspora lately.

“He made it clear that every Jew is welcome in Israel,” Himmelfarb said, adding that he thought Netanyahu was alluding to the Rotem bill in the Knesset that would redefine how Israel accepts conversions to Judaism. “He was just signaling his continued support for avoiding these kinds of divisive issues.”

Netanyahu has been a polarizing figure in Israel and the diaspora, but even those who disagree with his political stance praised his speech.

“Whether you agree or disagree with his views, I don’t think there’s a head of state on the planet today who can command the podium the way he does,” Gale Bindelglass said.

Netanyahu’s speech was not without controversy, as five protesters stood up at different points during the speech, shouting that Israel’s own actions contribute to the country’s potential delegitimization.

“It’s unfortunate people put the emphasis on five hecklers in a room with thousands of people,” said Scharfstein. “He was truly eloquent in making Israel’s case, both for Iran and the other subject that was very heavily discussed at the GA: the attempt to delegitimize Israel.”

The protesters did not accomplish anything, Himmelfarb said.

“It was really just a disruption that had no purpose,” he said. “I don’t think it helped in any way get any new items on the agenda.”

Biden, who addressed the GA separately from Netanyahu, spoke about the strong bond between the United States and Israel and his own relationship with the Jewish state dating back to the 1970s.

“I really thought Biden went out of his way to say the right things with energy and emotion and reassure the audience that the Obama administration got it,” Himmelfarb said.

What Biden said was not as important as the message he sent just with his presence at the GA, Gad-Harf said.
“His presence and the word of support that he presented to us were very meaningful.”

What separated this year’s GA from others, according to Gad-Harf, were the 1,500 attendees doing community service around the city on Monday.

“It was one of the main reasons they brought the GA to New Orleans,” he said, “to both remember and celebrate the role that the Jewish community played in helping to restore New Orleans after Katrina, and to underscore the importance of community service as part of Jewish communal life.”

Josh Lipowsky can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


UJA-NNJ begins transition after long-time leader retires

Monday marked the first day in 2011 at UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, and also the first day without Howard Charish, its executive vice president who retired at the end of last month after eight years with the federation.

David Gad-Harf, the interim executive vice president, and Robert Hyman, the interim associate executive vice president and chief operating officer, have assumed the leadership of the federation while a search committee looks for Charish’s successor. They began the transition Monday morning by asking the federation’s employees what characteristics described Charish’s term and what they wanted to continue.

David Gad-Harf Courtesy UJA-NNJ

“As a staff we committed to finding ways to keep Howard’s qualities alive in UJA,” Gad-Harf told The Jewish Standard. “For me it was very cathartic.”

Those qualities included nurturing people, optimism, lightheartedness, dedication, enthusiasm, and surprises for the staff.

“He would just surprise us with hot soup in the cold winter or cupcakes as a treat,” Gad-Harf said. “He loved doing that and we loved it as well. We decided this should be embedded within our culture as an organization.”

The change in leadership comes as the federation is looking toward a change in direction. Its new strategic plan calls for more collaboration among Jewish communal organizations. The federation, Hyman said, should be “the convener to bring the agencies together.” The federation will also encourage Jewish institutions to apply for funding for specific projects through an innovation fund still in development, Gad-Harf said. Once up and running, that fund will focus on projects outside the federation’s typical sphere but still within the Jewish community, according to Gad-Harf. The main role of the federation, he continued, should be to bring the community together, and so UJA-NNJ leaders will also look to build connections between what Gad-Harf called the “fractured” and “decentralized” North Jersey Jewish community, which will include reaching out to institutions that have not previously been federation beneficiaries.

“What we’re doing is announcing to the community that the impact the federation can have and should have goes beyond the dollars to institutions,” Gad-Harf said. “We need to play a role in strengthening the infrastructure of Jewish New Jersey.”

Gad-Harf and Hyman’s swift assumption of leadership appears to be well-received. Miriam Allenson, UJA-NNJ’s director of marketing services, called the transition seamless.

“There was no — on the staff level — feeling of nervousness,” she said. “It means our work goes on and it goes on in a positive direction.”

The lay leadership, meanwhile, has launched a nationwide search for a new executive, with help from Jewish Federations of North America, the federation system’s umbrella organization. UJA-NNJ president Alan Scharfstein said he expects to have someone in the position by June.

“We want a candidate who understands and is supportive of what we’re doing, but we’re not looking for one who comes from the same old mold of doing things the way federations have done them for half a century,” he said. “We need somebody who can speak to our younger donors, involve a larger group of people in federation activities, who’s willing to look at redefining the role the federation plays in the community and can display a sense of excitement and dynamism.”

Jayne Petak, who is co-chairing the search committee with Jules Eisen, said that it has drafted a position description, which it will soon begin circulating. JFNA, in the meantime, is placing ads and headhunting for UJA-NNJ. The committee is looking for someone with a strong business background and passions for excellence and the Jewish community who will motivate the professional and volunteer staffs, Petak said.

Charish oversaw the merger of the UJA of Bergen County and the Jewish Federation of North Jersey, as well as the move to UJA-NNJ’s current headquarters in Paramus. In recognition of his work, the federation’s lay leadership is instituting an annual award in Charish’s name. Starting in June, the federation will award a stipend at its annual meeting to a successful and committed Jewish professional from the community.

“It helps support one of Howard’s passions, to make sure that those who devote their lives to the service of our community be appropriately rewarded,” Scharfstein said.

Josh Lipowsky can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Federation Fund to support creative change

When UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey adopted a strategic plan last year, its leaders kept in mind that not only do communal needs change, but communal organizations must change as well to effectively service those needs.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve come to realize that the federation itself had to change, to be more nimble, flexible, and innovative,” said its president, Alan Scharfstein. “We have a great base, but times are changing. We must make sure the organization changes along with them.”

UJA-NNJ is fashioning vehicles to accomplish this change, he said. Among these initiatives is the Adler Family Innovation Fund.

“What we recognize is that we really need to create an atmosphere of innovation,” said Scharfstein. “We need to engage new stakeholders and donors with whom our traditional models may not resonate.” For this, he said, “We need to develop new sources of funding to keep the organization fresh and vibrant.”

The Innovation Fund builds on the idea that while UJA-NNJ must continue to support core agencies, “we also need to develop the ability to fund innovative ideas; to encourage people who have great new ideas that could benefit the Jewish community and to provide them with seed funding.”

Whether viewed as “venture philanthropy or a way of encouraging the brightest in the community to focus attention on creative ideas,” the fund is a way of “combining all these great ideas into an actionable and real entity,” he said. “It allows us to show that we’re a community that puts its money where its mouth is.”

In addition to monetary contributions, he said, the fund is looking for volunteers to become involved in the preliminary review of proposals as well as post-grant mentoring functions.

Tenafly resident Carol Silberstein, chair of the funding process subcommittee of the Innovation Fund, said the thinking behind the venture was “to broaden our own understanding and support for groups doing important work in the community and open up the universe of potential grantees beyond those we generally fund.”

She believes the fund will help engage new constituencies and “touch donor passions. Our goal really is to act as an incubator for new and creative programs [that] solve problems in our community,” she said, noting that “community” embraces Israel as well as other countries.

Silberstein, who formerly headed the federation’s overseas allocations committee, cited four priorities arising from the strategic planning process: promoting and expanding a sense of Jewish community in northern New Jersey; enhancing affordability and access to Jewish cultural and educational experiences; providing a safety net to protect Jews in need; and strengthening the connection between this area and Israel.

“The Innovation Fund is directly tied in to these four categories, looking for proposals that advance any of these areas,” she said. In addition, “we are particularly interested in projects that involve collaboration between two or more organizations, with the objective of sharing resources and expertise in order to maximize impact.”

Silberstein said she has researched the experience of other federations that do this kind of funding and, based on her findings, expects a good response. The goal is to raise $300,000 for the first year of the fund’s operation.

Tenafly resident Dana Adler — who together with husband James and in-laws Mike and Elaine Adler has made a large initial gift to the fund — said that as a Berrie Fellow several years ago, she learned that younger people like to “follow the money they give away.”

“What this [fund] might provide is a forum for young philanthropists to get together and truly follow their money to see how it makes an impact in the community,” she said.

Speaking to the importance of using social media such as Facebook and YouTube to recruit and educate new donors, she suggested, for example, that those interested in contributing to a group home might want to see what is actually going on in those facilities.

With the aid of a camera, “they could see how young people there make Shabbat dinner and feel good that their money went there,” she said. Or those interested in funding additional programs for the PJ Library/Shalom Baby project but who cannot attend the programs personally, might view them on YouTube or visit a special Facebook page.

Using Hillel as another example of a program that might excite young donors, Adler said “Maybe someone not involved in local Jewish philanthropy might get turned on by something like Hillel after they see how it works.”

Adler, who pointed out that both her parents and her in-laws have been involved with the federation and other Jewish causes for many years, said that she hopes the fact that hers is a family gift will inspire other young people.

“I’m not quite sure the idea of the annual fund will work forever,” she said. “It’s up to federation to reinvent itself. This is one way. It’s a fund where people can see what happens to their philanthropic investments. There needs to be a lot of ways, many portals, to involvement.”

For further information about the Innovation Fund, e-mail Miriam Allenson, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or call (201) 820-3921.


Area marks Yom HaShoah

UJA: ‘We must make sure every child learns about the Shoah’

Nachum Mester of Wanaque lights a candle as his daughter Zahava Trosten and his son Isaak look on. Charles Zusman

Survivors, family and friends gathered Sunday at The Frisch School for a Holocaust memorial, but while they were physically in Paramus, their attention was focused thousands of miles away, on Auschwitz, where the annual March of the Living was taking place.

Originally the “march of death,” from Auschwitz to the death camp at Birkenau, now it’s the March of the Living, said Wallace Greene, a member of the Holocaust Committee of the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, the gathering’s sponsor. He noted that 10,000 youngsters take part, most (but not all) of them Jewish.

Unfortunately, bad weather in Poland prevented much of a planned live telecast from Auschwitz from getting through, but recorded speeches by Elie Wiesel, and then Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Major Jewish Organizations, were displayed on the large screen.

Some video did make it through, however, and the audience saw live images of youngsters gathered at Auschwitz, and a song performed by Dudu Fischer.

Meanwhile, the ceremony in Paramus was emotional in its own right. Youngsters in the audience carried 68 candles, commemorating the 68th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The candles were lined up on the stage in front of the screen displaying the images from Auschwitz. Song was provided by the Frisch Concert Choir under Scott Stein.

Survivors honored at the Paramus event were Lilly Veron of Fair Lawn, who was born in Hungary and survived the war in work camps in Vienna; Jack Rosen of Fair Lawn, born in Poland, who survived Auschwitz; and Stella Baum of Fort Lee, born in Poland, who survived the war hiding in the woods.

Also honored were Abe Klein of Fair Lawn, born in Poland, who survived a roundup in Lublin; Rae Nutkiewicz, born in Poland, who was taken by her mother to the Russian zone and survived the war in Siberia: and Nachum Mester of Wanaque, born in Moldova, under a bush, he said, after the train deporting his mother was bombed.

Alan Scharfstein, UJA-NNJ’s president, spoke of the event’s lasting message. “Our purpose is not just to tell the story,” he said, but also to “ensure that the story becomes part of the DNA of the Jewish people, and part of the collective DNA of all humanity.”

There is a long way to go to reach that goal, he said, but the annual remembrance is a step in that direction.

Greene spoke of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and other acts of rebellion. “Jews did fight back,” he said. “Despite overwhelming odds … they fought back in many ways. By retaining their humanity and refusing to be dehumanized by the Nazis, by acts of kindness to one another, even in the camps, by acts of piety, by acts of nobility … even in the darkest holes of evil and horror that they experienced.”

“We are grateful to be living in America. We are grateful to the survivor community; they are our living witnesses,” he continued. “For the dead, and for the living, we too must be witnesses,” Greene said.

“We must guarantee that the next generation will know what happened,” he said, “We must make sure that every child learns about the Shoah” so that their children will know what happened when there are no longer any surviving witnesses.

David Machlis of Englewood, the vice chair of the International March of the Living, conceived the idea of the live telecast, Greene said. Co-chairs for the Paramus event were Rosalind Melzer and Allyn Michaelson.

Greene said the hope is for more youngsters to take part in the March for the Living, saying that the “powerful experience” strengthens their identity as Jews, bringing “a stronger feeling for Jewish continuity,” and he appealed for donations for the program.

Greene said that the non-Jewish participants in the March of the Living “are more likely to take part in social justice activities. They are more likely to take action against discrimination.”

Wiesel opened his pre-recorded address with a question: How can people, the Nazis, reach such depths? “We have learned that racism is stupid and anti-Semitism is a disgrace,” he said.

“Whoever listens to a witness becomes a witness. We must never allow our past to become our children’s future.”

Hoenlein continued that thread. “We remember [in order] to spare future generations of the trials of the past,” he said. “Judaism puts an emphasis on life. We look back in order to look forward.”

He cited the lessons of the 1930s, when Nazism was on the rise, but said there are differences now — there is the State of Israel and there is an Israel Defense Forces. “We must determine our future course” and not let our enemies do so, he said.

However, he said, the “big lie” still works, and “messages of hate” now spread faster than in the ‘30s. He cited the anti-Israel stance of Iran, the tragedy of Darfur, the recent murders of an Israeli family, and the fact that “the world is silent” in the face of these. “We have to speak out against indifference to us and to others,” he said.


As federation drops ‘UJA’ moniker, it moves in new strategic directions

Federation interim executive David Gad-Harf at a strategic planning implementation committee meeting. courtesy UJA-NNJ

It’s not your parents’ federation.

That’s how Amy Glazer sums up the radical change under way at UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey.

Glazer served on the committee charged with implementing the strategic plan the federation adopted a year ago that outlined the transformation.

“It was a thought-provoking, very in-depth process we went through,” she said. “There was a lot of prioritizing, a lot of examining the issues, in deciding the direction federation should go in.”

Not directly linked to the new directions, the federation will be receiving a new name at its annual meeting Tuesday night, becoming the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. Dropping the UJA name is a response to a branding recommendation from the Jewish Federations of North America, the national organization that stopped using the United Jewish Appeal name more than a decade ago. The annual meeting will also provide an opportunity for the federation to present its new executive vice president, Jason Shames, who will start work next month, and it will bring in a new lay leader, as David Goodman takes over the federation’s presidency from Alan Scharfstein.

What: The annual meeting of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, which will change its name to Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey

Where: Federation offices, 50 Eisenhower Drive, Paramus

When: Tuesday, June 14, 7:30 p.m.

“We’ve been trying to change the focus of federation, because we recognize that the world around us is changing dramatically,” said Scharfstein, who assumed the presidency in 2008, shortly before the financial crisis and the collapse of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, two events that had a severe impact on the federation’s campaign.

The result will be a federation different in more than name, say those involved in the planning process.

“All of the credits for the idea of beginning to look at the community differently goes to Alan,” said Goodman, who headed the strategic plan implementation committee.

David Gad-Harf, who has been serving as federation’s interim executive officer and will soon resume his position as the organization’s chief operating officer, explained that the traditional federation model is being stood on its head.

“The traditional model is that we will be supporting a very wide range of Jewish agencies [and] we will be providing funding to those agencies in an unrestricted manner; we will call upon people to donate to us merely because we represent the Jewish community and because their donation can be spread throughout he community. The traditional federation creates value almost exclusively in the funding they transfer to other organizations and not in other ways,” he said.

No more.

In its next allocation cycle, next spring, the federation will begin funding programs, rather than agencies.

It will encourage Jewish organizations to collaborate with each other even as they compete as to who can best advance the federation’s priorities.

The federation’s three core strategies

1. Identifying and funding key communal priorities that respond to critical unmet needs locally and abroad

2. Strengthening local Jewish institutions so that they can better serve the community’s current and emerging needs

3. Engaging more people in Jewish philanthropy to increase both the human and financial resources the northern New Jersey Jewish community can leverage to grow even stronger than it is today.

Source: The federation’s strategic plan

And in another major shift from business as usual, overseas and local agencies will no longer be the domains of separate allocations committees.

Instead, three committees will each focus on one program priority: Jewish education and culture; providing a safety net; and strengthening the connection to Israel.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s domestic or overseas, it’s where our needs are greatest,” said Goodman.

“We no longer define our community as just North Jersey,” he added. “When we refer to community, we include Israel and around the world. It’s so much easier in today’s world to feel like you’re so close to the people of Israel and the other Jews of the world who are in need.”

“As part of every allocation we will want to understand what the measurables are going to be, what the goals are,” said Scharfstein.

“The value added to the community will be tracked and measured and monitored and compared to the goals set when the allocation was made, so we understand the value our dollars are creating.”

Better measurement reflects a more business-like approach to philanthropy, said Scharfstein.

It also reflects the demands of the younger generation of philanthropists the federation needs to woo.

“Younger donors believe in following their money, they want a seat at the table, and we need to create avenues for them to do that,” said Goodman.

It will make for easier campaign soliciting, federation leaders believe.

“We will be able to cite specific examples of programs that are being funded by federation through their contributions. That’s not something we can do now with any specificity,” said Gad-Harf.

Federation leaders say the new model also provides a better bang for the buck — a serious concern if the federation is to compete with other philanthropies.

The federation’s four communal priorities

1. Promoting and expanding the sense of Jewish identity and belonging in northern New Jersey

2. Enhancing the affordability and accessibility of Jewish cultural and learning experiences

3. Providing for the basic needs of Jews locally and around the world

4. Strengthening the connection of the northern New Jersey Jewish community with Israel

Source: The federation’s strategic plan

“In the past,” said Goodman, “people might say they’re giving $100 to federation, and x percent goes to pay overhead, and the discounted dollar goes to provide benefits and services overseas or locally.

“We don’t want to discount your dollars. We want your $100 to be worth $125 in the community,” he said.

Recent federation innovations are making that a reality, he said.

There’s the Kehillah Cooperative, which consolidates purchasing for 80 Jewish organizations, including synagogues and schools.

“We’ve been able to lower electric bills because we’re purchasing as a larger group. We’re doing that with health benefits, office supplies, and many other things. The community has saved over $650,000 because of federation’s investment in a purchasing agent. How’s that for putting in $100 and getting $125 out?” said Goodman.

Another such multiplying effect will come as the federation helps agencies transition to the new funding process, which will require agencies to write grant proposals for specific programs.

“How many agencies know how to write grants? So we have a grant writer who teaches our agencies how to write grants so they can request funding from federation. But once they’ve learned how to write grants, they can write grant proposals for foundations outside the community, they can write grant proposals for government funding. There’s a value-added scenario for you.”

This logo will be presented to the community Tuesday night.
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