By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
The Federation’s annual meeting last week drew a full house! When I looked out at the gathering, however, I saw more than just numbers. I saw a room full of people who bring the word “community” to life – enjoying each other’s company, kindling and rekindling friendships, and honoring volunteers and communal professionals who have made such a positive impact on Jewish Puget Sound.
The heart of a vibrant community is relationships – the bridges over which we communicate with each other, touch each other’s lives, and change and repair our world, with each bringing their own talents and passions to the table. Since the Federation’s founding 90 years ago, our vision has been expanding and deepening Jewish life by building and strengthening relationships.
As we approach the end of our fiscal year tomorrow, the annual meeting was an opportunity to look back at, reflect upon, and celebrate the impact that our work has made in this 90th year, thanks to the support of generous people like you. Our work benefited the community in many ways, but I want to focus on accomplishments that bring special focus to the importance of relationships.
At the Federation’s invitation, 50 lay and professional leaders from 25 Jewish organizations and synagogues met in May 2017 to begin thinking deeply about the priorities that we should focus on for helping our growing and increasingly diverse community achieve its potential. The Community Convening Initiative grew out of our shared commitment to Jewish Puget Sound, and together, we have built a strong foundation for addressing priorities. That foundation is relationships – some newly created, some repaired, many strengthened.
Healthy relationships were the key to the policy wins that Jewish Puget Sound secured in this year’s session of the Washington State Legislature – increased funding to fight anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination, expanded support for human services, and much more. Our relationships within the Jewish community and with elected officials made our collective voice in Olympia strong and effective.
Healthy relationships are among the beneficial outcomes of our investments in tried-and-true programs that prepare the leaders that our community will depend upon in the years ahead. This year, a new cohort of talented volunteers graduated from our Advanced Leadership Development Program. We will again participate in the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet, and with the Samis Foundation, invest in Jewish Puget Sound’s third Wexner Heritage Program cohort.
Investing in relationships also requires a willingness to try new ways of helping people build community, so in the past year, the Federation acted a bit like a venture capitalist. Our PAVE program for Jews in their 30s and 40s provided small grants this spring to support do-it-yourself get-togethers – Passover Seders, Shavuot celebrations, and the like. With a small investment from Federation, new Jewish connections took root at the neighborhood level.
New connections were made this spring on the Federation-led Community Trip to Israel, a warm and wonderful journey that brought new and old friends together to experience our Jewish homeland of Israel – from the cutting-edge in Tel Aviv to the timeless in Jerusalem. There, I was personally moved at seeing our work to expand and deepen community bearing fruit. People found their own ways to connect with faith, history, and tradition, but made those connections more durable and meaningful by conversing, engaging, and creating the shared memories that are the bond of lasting relationships. The trip was transformative, and we can’t wait until our next community trip to Israel in 2020!
And speaking of transformative trips to Israel– an exciting initiative we will be introducing later this year is Honeymoon Israel, a one-of-a-kind program that engages committed young couples in Jewish life and creates a chavurah.
In these and many other ways, Federation’s impact this past year was your impact. It is your commitment to Jewish values and your investment in community that promises a bright, shared Jewish future. Your support of Federation makes a difference and touches many people’s lives. If you have not already done so, please make your gift to Federation by tomorrow, the last day of our fiscal year. Thank you, for all that you do!