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entries tagged with: David Gad Harf


Jewish Home’s Berkowitz receives Saul Schwarz award

In recognition of more than 30 years of Jewish communal work, Charles Berkowitz, president and CEO of the Jewish Home Family, received the 2009 Saul Schwarz Distinguished Service Award from the New Jersey Association of Jewish Communal Service during the organization’s fall meeting last month.

The NJAJCS gathered at the Wilf Jewish Community Campus in Scotch Plains on Nov. 20 for the event, which was hosted by the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey. Berkowitz, a resident of Glen Rock, is also executive vice president of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh.

“I have been in this profession for a long time,” he said. “I was very pleased professional colleagues of mine had thought of me in making the nomination.”

Charles Berkowitz, president and CEO of the Jewish Home Family, is the 2009 winner of the Saul Schwarz Distinguished Service Award from the New Jersey Association of Jewish Communal Service.

Berkowitz has been with the Jewish Home since 1970, when he arrived after a stint at what is now the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, which was then in Englewood. Berkowitz is proud of the Jewish Home’s growth through the years and looks forward to growing it further.

“We’ve grown … to having two state-of-the-art institutions in Rivervale and Rockleigh,” he said. “We’ve really set a standard for the profession through these facilities.”

Through its Jewish Home at Home program, the organization has begun to focus on homecare alternatives for seniors. The first step in the program is a geriatric care management program, which includes a series of home-based services such as Meals on Wheels and medical day care.

“He’s really the dean of Jewish agency executives and somebody we at UJA always turn to for advice,” David Gad-Harf, associate executive vice president and COO at UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, said of Berkowitz. “He’s always eager to be helpful and has wise advice based on his many years of service to our Jewish community.”

NJAJCS was founded in 1970 to “serve as a forum for the discussion of programs of Jewish communal service on a professional level, and of the application of general professional techniques to service in Jewish communities,” according to the organization’s Website. The Saul Schwarz award, created in 1984, recognizes a member who has demonstrated a consistent history of professional and personal commitment to the field. Schwarz was the first recipient of the award, which was later named after him. Winners are chosen by Jewish professionals throughout the state from all fields of communal service.

Schwarz, a past president of what would later become United Jewish Communities of MetroWest and one of the founders of NJAJCS, expected a great deal from others in the field, said Judy Beck, director of UJA-NNJ’s Synagogue Leadership Initiative, a past president of NJAJCS, and a past recipient of the Saul Schwarz award.

“He really felt that people who work in the field of Jewish communal service were professionals,” she said. “He was really an unbelievable human being in what he accomplished and expected us to accomplish.”

Schwarz died in August 2001.

“The Saul Schwarz Distinguished Service Award is an honor accorded annually to a distinguished professional who has devoted his career to Jewish life in our state,” said Arthur Sandman, NJAJCS president and associate executive vice president, program services, of the Whippany-based MetroWest federation. “We were very proud to give it to Chuck Berkowitz this year in light of the vision he has given to the care of seniors in our community and the professional example he has set for people in our field.”

Past winners of the award include UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey executive vice president Howard Charish; Joy Kurland, head of the federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council and a regional CRC; and Abe Davis, executive director of Jewish Family & Children’s Services in North Jersey.

“I know everybody who has won the award over the years,” Berkowitz said. “It’s a nice group of people to be involved with.”


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).


Rutgers Hillel celebrates successes in combating anti-Israelism on campus

New funding lets Rutger’s pro-Israel forces be pro-active

The battle in defense of Israel on the Rutgers campus is being joined, and Rutgers Hillel is hiring the professionals to lead it.

“It’s not enough to respond to the delegitimization attacks and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel,” said Andrew Getraer, executive director of Rutgers Hillel. “We need to be prepared, not only with a strategic response, we need to be educating and engaging our students about Israel before it’s time to respond.

“Let them respond to us,” he said.

To be pro-active in making the pro-Israel case, Rutgers is creating a new Center for Israel Advocacy and Engagement. Funding for its director, who has not yet been hired, is coming from all the New Jersey Jewish federations. Locally, the board of trustees of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey formally signed off on the allocation — about a quarter of the position’s budget — last Wednesday night.

Additionally, Hillel has hired a shaliach, or Israel representative, who will work directly with students. This position is being funded by the co-founders of Bed, Bath, and Beyond —Warren Eisenberg and Leonard Feinstein.

“Students are looking to understand Israel,” said Getraer. “They’re looking to understand what’s going on there. And if we don’t provide them with the information, the opponents of Israel will.

“We look at this as something the entire Jewish community has a stake in, a service Hillel is providing in partnership with the federations and organizations such as Hadassah, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League,” he said.

As part of that partnership, on Wednesday, Hillel hosted a statewide conference on the assault on Israel’s legitimacy and the community’s response organized by state-wide and national Jewish umbrella organizations: The New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations and the Israel Action Network, a national response to the delegitimization campaign created by the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

The invitation-only event brought together 75 representatives from across the state to create “local and state-wide action plans to counter the assault on Israel’s legitimacy.”

David Gad-Harf, interim executive vice president of UJA-NNJ, agreed that it was imperative that Hillel have the resources to set the agenda rather than just respond.

“It’s really essential, not only in terms of advancing Israel’s cause but in terms of the kinds of feelings we want to instill in Jewish students on campus,” he said. “It’s really important that our state-wide Jewish community support the efforts by Rutgers Hillel to enhance their Israel advocacy infrastructure.”

He also noted that “northern New Jersey has one of the largest Jewish student populations at Rutgers, which made it all the more important that our federation support that initiative.”

The two new Israel-focused professionals join a staff that this past year numbered six full-time and two part-time employees, as well as two part-time graduate student interns. Hillel estimates that Rutgers has 6,000 Jewish students, 5,000 of them undergraduates, making it the fourth-largest Jewish student body nationwide.

One of the new positions has been filled by Israel emissary Lihi Rothschild. Her role will be to build personal relationships with students, literally bringing them the “face” of Israel. She will be working with students on a variety of Israel cultural and political events and will also assist with recruiting for the two Birthright trips run by Hillel. The Birthright trip over winter break sends 40 students and the trip at the start of summer vacation brings 20 to 40 students. Hillel hopes to see those numbers increase.

The emissary will also work with the Hebrew Speakers Club and will be a resource for students on campus in general who want to learn about Israel.

To head the Israel advocacy center, said Getraer, “We’re looking for someone who can work with our students to strategize the appropriate Israel programs and events and education for our students, someone who can strategize with the larger Jewish community, with our federation and community partners, who understands the dynamics of a university as well as the Jewish community as a whole, and can lead our students and be led by them.

This will be a cutting-edge position, he added.

“There are Israel fellows on other campuses, but not really a position like this. We hope it will be a model for larger Hillels throughout the country. Once it is proven successful, some of the strategies and structures we use can be replicated on other campuses. We believe we can help set the pace in standing up for Israel on college campuses,” 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.

Jews are responsible for one another

Locally, change came first

At the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, change is well under way as a new generation assumes leadership.

With the Adler Family Innovation Fund, launched a few months ago, the federation embraced a new model of spurring communal creativity.

The fund received 70 proposals from a variety of institutions for projects locally and overseas, said David Gad-Harf, the federation’s chief operating officer and for six months its interim chief executive. It expects to announce successful proposals next month, and hopes to have $300,000 in dedicated funding for them.

“The process we’ve been following for the innovation fund is like a test of the way we’re going to be approaching all funding going forward,” he said. “We’ll identify priorities for the community, issue requests for proposals, make selections, monitor performance, and see that the agencies accomplish what they set out to do.

“We’ve been a traditional federation, a federation that raises money in a traditional manner, disburses money in a traditional manner, relates to agencies in a traditional manner. We’ve awakened to the reality that in order to thrive in the future, we have to make changes in all three areas,” said Gad-Harf.

These changes emerged from the federation’s strategic planning process. David Goodman, 47, who assumed the post of the federation’s president last month, led the implementation of the new strategic plan. But Jason Shames, who assumed the role of federation chief executive officer this week at the age of 40, came into the federation with the changes already well underway.

“This isn’t like going out to the O.K. Coral and building from scratch,” he said about his new post. “We have quality leadership, quality staff, and quality institutions.”


Jews are responsible for one another

David Gad-Harf looks back on six months as chief

Sometimes organizations hiring an interim leader are looking for a caretaker to continue business as usual until the new leader stakes out a new course.

At the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, change was already the order of the day when Howard Charish ended his tenure as chief executive and David Gad-Harf assumed the position of interim executive at the beginning of the year. When he was asked to head up the organization until Charish’s successor could be found, “The clear message was to not be a caretaker but to move the organization forward, since were at such a pivotal point,” he said in an interview on Monday, his first day back as the federation’s associate executive vice president and chief operating officer with Jason Shames at the organization’s helm.

“It wasn’t a quiet time to be the interim executive vice president. But I really feel proud that I’ve been able to play an important role in maintaining, if not strengthening, the organization during a period of intense change,” he said.

Gad-Harf was already intimately involved with the federation’s day-to-day operations as its chief operating officer. He led the strategic planning process that led to the changes under way at federation.

But sitting in the top seat was different.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Part of what I’ve gained is a lot of additional experience in high-end fundraising. These days the executive of a federation has to spend the bulk of his or her time raising funds. It was during this period that we needed to close our annual campaign. I had a lot of additional responsibilities for cultivating relationships with our major donors and bringing them to the point where they were eager to make their donations to the 2011 campaign. It wasn’t foreign to me before then, but I gained a lot of additional experience.

“It also provided me with a broader perspective of our federation as a whole and the role of the CEO within it. There’s an additional kind and level of responsibility that comes with being the top professional in any organization or corporation. You don’t understand or feel it until you’re there, to really feel responsible for the future and well-being of this organization,” he said.

“I really feel fortunate to remain in a position where I can continue to move the federation forward. This is an exciting time to be a professional at the federation. I look forward to being Jason’s partner as we move the federation forward,” he said.


Safe from the storm

Jewish community counts its blessings

While Hurricane Irene spread havoc throughout much of New Jersey, area shuls and schools appear to have emerged with relatively little damage.

Among those monitoring the situation is the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, which itself lost power Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning.

“Fortunately, we were fine initially,” said David Gad-Harf, chief operating officer, explaining that federation mobilized its staff immediately after the storm, making calls and sending e-mails to all Jewish institutions in the area.

“I’m glad we had power long enough to reach out to a fairly significant number of institutions,” he said. “What we wanted to do is find out what Jewish institutions in northern New Jersey were impacted, how they were affected, and what kind of support and assistance federation could provide. We also wanted to convey that if there were people in desperate situations, they should be referred to Jewish Family Service agencies.”

Before Hurricane Irene struck, homeowners up and down the East Coast took precautions, including this homeowner in New Jersey. Robert Cumins

In this effort, federation also utilized social media, sending messages via Facebook and Twitter “to express concern and [urge] that people contact us if anyone was in dire straits and needed urgent help.”

Gad-Harf said his first approach was to area day schools, now preparing for the new school year.

“We were particularly concerned about the Solomon Schechter Day School in New Milford, since the town was flooded,” he said. On Tuesday, he received word that the school’s basement was, in fact, filled with water.

The Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies also reported flooding in its office area, though by Tuesday the water had been removed and was starting to dry out. Also flooded was Ohr Yosef in New Milford, which lost its power as well. It has since been restored.

“In these cases we offered temporary office space in our building until they were back up and running,” said Gad-Harf, “but they concluded they didn’t need it.”

He noted, as well, that according to Elliot Prager, principal of The Moriah School in Englewood, the school initially lost power and internet service but was back to normal on Tuesday.

As part of their outreach efforts, federation professionals contacted synagogues in some 10 areas that experienced flooding. These included Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, Beth Haverim-Shir Shalom in Mahwah, Cong. Beth Tikvah in New Milford, Beth Shalom in Pompton Lakes, Temple Beth El in Rutherford, and three congregations in Wayne—Shomrei Torah, Chabad, and Beth Tikvah.

“Thank God, most institutions were spared significant damage,” he said. “Only a few so far have experienced flooding. Several lost electric power, but all of them have had their power restored. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured or lost their home or was thrust into the financial abyss.”

Still, Gad-Harf said Barnert Temple informed him that some of its member families are still without power and could use a generator. Federation will spread the word about that, he said.

He noted also that federation learned on Tuesday that Temple Israel and Jewish Community Center in Ridgewood experienced some flooding. Shul administrator Maureen Nassan reported that the synagogue and surrounding area “was pretty much a lake at first, [including] the parking lot, surrounding areas, across the street, and the basement.” The shul did not lose power, however, thanks to its sump pumps.

According to Nancy Perlman, the federation staff member who spoke with Nassan, “Now it’s just smelly and mucky, but the worst is behind them. They’re suggesting people not park in the lot, as it’s still very muddy.”

Gad-Harf said that Jewish agencies, with one exception, fared well.

“JFS of Bergen and North Hudson lost power but they got it back this [Tuesday] morning and they’re back in business,” he said. “But they continued to see clients on Monday even though they had no power.”

JFS agencies also continued to provide Kosher Meals on Wheels. (This reporter can attest, however, that this was no easy task, since many of the usual routes were affected by the flooding and volunteers needed to be particularly creative.)

“I’m so glad we did this,” Gad-Harf said of federation’s outreach effort, “not just to identify the problems that exist but to make people and institutions know that we’re there for them. Almost everyone—to a person—expressed appreciation. Maybe that sends a message to us that people value being part of a larger whole. They needed moral support from the Jewish community.”

The Jewish Standard received news from other sources, as well.

According to Caryn Starr-Gates, president of Reconstructionist Temple Beth Israel in Maywood, “Surprisingly enough — and it is surprising — RTBI did not take on any water after the storm this weekend.” Gates, like many other shul presidents and rabbis, also reached out to congregants to see if they needed any help.

In an e-mail with the subject heading “Are you OK?” Rabbi Jordan Millstein of Temple Sinai in Tenafly checked in with members to see how they weathered the storm. Wrote Millstein, “I received one very unfortunate report that a tree crashed through the bedroom of a member. Fortunately, she was up and not in the room at the time.” The rabbi noted that the center of Demarest, near his home, was flooded, joking that “The Demarest Duck Pond is now the Demarest Lake.” He also said that he only had a little water in his own basement.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, religious leader of Ahavath Torah in Englewood, said things seemed to be “okay here.” Some of his congregants lost power, he said, but “other than that, some fallen trees and some flooding, [there was] no damage to the synagogue and, as far as we know, no other congregations.”


Departure sparks federation shifts

JFNNJ uses staff opening to rethink structure

The evolution of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey (JFNNJ) continues.

Senior staff has taken on new responsibilities, and work is beginning on new initiatives that will help chart future directions for the federation in the years ahead.

This comes as federation chief Jason Shames marks eight months at the JFNNJ helm, and as the charity continues to implement the recommendations of its recent strategic planning process.

In a high-level shuffling of administrative portfolios, David Gad-Harf, who had been chief operating officer for six years (including a stint as interim chief executive officer), has been named chief development officer.

In addition to assuming responsibility for fundraising, Gad-Harf will continue to oversee marketing and communication for the federation, and its relationships with beneficiary and other Jewish agencies.

Many of his operational responsibilities will become the responsibility of Chief Financial Officer Robin Greenfield.

These changes in responsibility follow the departure of former Chief Development Officer Larry Cohen, who has assumed a post with American Friends of Bar-Ilan University.

“We had to reshuffle the deck a little,” said Shames.

“It offered an opportunity to reevaluate how we’re structured, and to try to come up with the best structure to meet our needs,” said Gad-Harf.

“We are building a more integrated structure,” he said, with all aspects of the organization “working in tandem to engage people, to convey the right messages, to offer opportunities for involvement and philanthropy.”

Gad-Harf now heads a fundraising staff of 10 professionals, as well as around 80 volunteer solicitors. In line with the unifying of marketing and development, however, he emphasizes that everyone involved in the charity is in the fundraising business, even if they are not directly soliciting.

“I want to define fundraising very broadly so every volunteer, every staff member of federation, understands they have a role to pay and they have a stake in our success. Everyone can play a very meaningful role in fundraising by widening the circle of people who feel the investment in federation’s success and the future of our Jewish community.”

Another new development in the fundraising department is the hiring of Andy Arenson to work on “donor cultivation and stewardship” in what JFNNJ is calling “the Palisades corridor.”

The federation last had such a position “years and years ago,” said Shames.

That area — which includes towns from Englewood and Tenafly up north through Closter and Demarest and Rockleigh — “has some very successful Jewish institutions, and is rife with people who are engaged Jewishly,” said Shames.

Arenson “is somebody who lives there and fits some of those demographic profiles of what exists in those communities,” he said, and has the responsibility “to reach out to peers and others involved to get them involved in the broader Jewish community,” he said.

Meanwhile, looking to the western side of the northern New Jersey Jewish community, the federation is finalizing a task force to examine the region “west of the Garden State Parkway, as far west as Wayne and even Paterson,” said Shames, the area formerly covered by the Jewish Federation of North Jersey, which merged with the Jewish Federation of Bergen County and North Hudson in 2004 to create what is now known as the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

Dubbed the North Jersey Task Force, the committee is being chaired by the JFNNJ’s immediate past president, Alan Scharfstein, and includes representatives from area institutions, including the Wayne Y, the Bergen YJCC, and the Gerrard Berman Day School.

“The federation has been proactive in bringing this agenda to the table. The question up front is whether these agencies are in the right place, providing the right services, and then what can we do to provide the right service,” said Shames.

JFNNJ is also embarking on a marketing study that will examine the entire northern New Jersey Jewish community. “The study will tell us where people are living, what they’re interested in, and what they’re willing to support philanthropically,” he said.

“We’re going to look beyond demographics into behavioral trends and psychological analyses. What are the consumer and philanthropic trends in the community?” he said.

The goal is “to help us understand the community, where it is and where it’s going. The information we’re collecting is not only for federation, but for anyone ineterested in the Jewish marketplace of New Jersey.”

And in an endeavor that is just beginning, JFNNJ is forming a committee to examine its governance and how its board operates. “This is all being driven by the recommendations of the strategic plan,” said Shames.

Reflecting on his months in New Jersey, Shames said he “is surprised by how tough it is to raise funds here. Philanthropy in northern New Jersey is a real, real issue for 90 percent of the institutions in our catchment area. It’s a long term issue for 100 percent of them. One of our biggest challenges is turning people from consumers into philanthropists.”

Gad-Harf said he is convinced that the community can meet that challenge.

“We have here in northern New Jersey a tremendous amount of untapped potential to do good and make important things happen, to strengthen our Jewish community, both here in New Jersey and in other parts of the world. I’m determined to unleash our potential, and I’m just confident that we’re going to make this happen over the next several years,” he said.


Moving back to Motor City

JFNNJ’s David Gad-Harf leaves town, looks back

Larry YudelsonLocal
Published: 25 January 2013
(tags): david gad-harf

If it takes a David to slay a giant Goliath, what does it take to knock a David out of the ring?

It wasn’t the financial crisis of 2008 that did in David Gad-Harf, who is the chief operating officer at the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the number two staffer there since 2005.

Nor did he shirk from helping the federation reinvent itself for a new century.

David Gad-Harf and his grandson, Jonah.

No, what’s sending Gad-Harf out of northern New Jersey and out of Jewish communal service is a six month old boy named Jonah. He is Gad-Harf’s first grandchild.

When Gad-Harf met Jonah, “lightning struck.

“We didn’t want to be drop-in grandparents,” he said. “We wanted to be part of our grandchild’s life.”

Jonah’s father, Josh Gadharf, had been raised in Detroit, where Gad-Harf had been the director of the Jewish community relations council for 17 years, and he and his wife, Danielle, had just returned to the city.

Gad-Harf and his wife, Nancy, decided to follow their only child and his family.

(A word about names in the Gad-Harf family. David and Nancy decided to combine their last names when they married; their son and his wife decided to keep the name but drop the hyphen.)

He found a job in Detroit, working for the Henry Ford Health Center, a major hospital system in Detroit, helping the hospital system form partnerships with the private sector.

For the first time in over 30 years, Gad-Harf will not be working for the Jewish community.

“It was special, because I felt I was serving the Jewish community, not only in northern New Jersey, but around the world, especially in Israel,” he said.

In New Jersey, those with whom he worked at Federation will miss him.

“He will definitely be missed,” said David Goldberg, the federation’s president, who worked extensively with Gad-Harf on the federation’s strategic planning process. “We’ve had quite an adventure together.”

A lot has changed in the federation since Gad-Harf joined in 2005. There has been a name change; a move; the departure of long-time executive Howard Charish, who had brought Gad-Harf on board; and a year when Gad-Harf served as interim CEO.

And then there was the twin calamity of the financial collapse and the Bernie Madoff scandal. “It hit our federation hard, as it did many other federations,” Gad-Harf said.

“We had to reduce our budget and reduce our staff size. That was the painful part of the upheavals.

“But even the negative parts became a spur for our organization to rethink who we were, the role that we played, the value that we provided. It was a lead in to the transformation of Federation that has been going on for the last several years,” he said.

Gad-Harf led the strategic planning process that started in 2009 and was adopted by the federation in 2010.

As a result, the federation is repositioning itself “as an organization that provides real value to our Jewish community, that builds collaboration among agencies and organizations, and engages people, especially donors, in new ways,” he said.

“During the last year I’ve been fortunate to be leading the way professionally in the fundraising area, helping to introduce new strategies to raise money, to bring new people into our system, to do so in a way that attracts younger people. We’re just starting to see the fruits of those strategies.”

One change: “We’ve recommitted ourselves to the idea of fundraising missions. That was exemplified by the recent mission to Cuba. That will continue this year with a mission to Israel. There will be many more missions to Israel and elsewhere — we got away from that in the last few years.”

Gad-Harf recalls a mission to Israel early during his tenure here as “a pivotal experience.”

The trip impressed him with “the diversity coming from every corner of our community.”

Diversity is one of the strengths of the northern New Jersey Jewish community, he believes.

“The diverse ways that people express their Judaism, in the whole metropolitan New York area, has been amazing to me. I gained a much deeper sense of respect for the diversity that exists within the Jewish community. That’s something I will always carry with me,” he said.

The northern New Jersey Jewish community also has some unique challenges, he said.

“Unlike most other large city federations, our Jewish community didn’t start in an urban center. There isn’t a common memory. There aren’t the generations and generations that lived in the area that provides other communities with a sense of shared history and a shared future.

“Also, we live in the shadow of Manhattan. So many of the people who live here work in Manhattan and make their donations to the UJA-Federation of New York, because that’s where they are encouraged to do so at their places of work. That’s a problem that doesn’t exist elsewhere.

“A final characteristic, not necessarily unique to northern New Jersey, characterizes New Jersey as a whole. There is a sort of balkanization, a decentralization of communities that often gets in the way of building unity. That’s very challenging to overcome when you have people who feel a sense of identity with their little town, but not a sense of shared purpose with the town next door.

“I’m the kind of person who sees the opportunity in every challenge. It makes the federation role all the more important. You need something to serve as the glue that holds together the Jewish community. The federation is that glue. Unlike any other Jewish organizations in northern New Jersey, it has the capacity to bring people from disparate parts of the community together to discuss and act on issues and concerns of shared interest, and then to devise strategies to address those concerns.

“The federation that I came to in 2005 has really been significantly transformed. It’s a very different federation than the one that I knew in 2005. I’ve been lucky to be part of so many of the changes that have happened and that are making it a more relevant, a more potent, and a more valuable organization for now and into the future.

“I am really optimistic about Federation’s future. It has visionary leaders and highly committed volunteers and really superb staff members. That’s the recipe for success,” he said.

As for him, “I’m really appreciative of the wonderful opportunity I’ve had here and the friendships and collegial ties I’ve enjoyed and will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

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