Danielle V. Minson — Raising the Bar
Wishing You and Yours Shana Tova
First and foremost, on behalf of the whole Federation staff, I wish you a sweet and happy New Year, as our community moves into 5783. I also want to share a story of our common culture:
In May, Kathryn Katzman became a bat mitzvah. Her mother, who works at the Federation, told me that Kathryn wanted to give some of her bat mitzvah money to the Jewish Federation. She wanted to give the money in person—was that possible?
I could understand why she wanted to give it in person. I think we all want to see the immediate effects of our giving. It makes us feel good.
So at the end of June, we invited Kathryn to our annual Shabbat in the Park. After we shared the challah, I asked Kathryn to join me at the center of the park shelter. She was nervous but determined, her grin and her green safari hat firmly in place. As she handed me the check, she told us that her gift was to thank the Federation for helping her go to Jewish overnight camp, her favorite thing. I was touched.
Because the Federation gives to more than forty programs, it is often hard for us to see the immediate effects of our giving. It may seem invisible. Our donors don’t fly to Israel to see how they help ultra-Orthodox women find jobs in tech, or to Russian villages to see how they support elderly Jews living on $2 a day. We may not have even visited the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry right here in Cincinnati.
But the Federation’s work isn’t invisible at all. It’s actually everywhere you look—from a busy mom joining a PJ Library get-together, to a senior getting a hot kosher lunch, to a teen finding a social worker to talk with about her anxiety.
Culture is seemingly invisible, too. Culture’s the intangible stuff that glues organizations and communities together. It includes the stuff that’s hard to evaluate and hard to measure, yet something we all feel. But it’s culture that drives results.
I believe part of the Federation’s work is nurturing our community culture. We convene. We plan. We organize. We bring people together. We monitor the health of the Jewish community.
While we will continue to double down on our fundraising, this year we have chosen to step more strongly into this planner role: we have reallocated resources to put stronger emphasis on planning and on measuring impact. This too will help our common culture.
It’s often difficult to see change when you are in the middle of it. I had two recent experiences where instead of being in the middle of the dance floor, I had the view from the balcony. What I am starting to see is that we in Cincinnati are taking our common culture to a new level.
In August Oren Jacobson of Project Shema, an organization that provides training to help the American Jewish community and allies navigate difficult discussions on Israel and antisemitism, spent three intensive days leading seminars here. At the end of his final talk, unsolicited, he told the Amberley Room audience:
I want to take a moment to compliment this community. There really is something dynamic being built here. You all really have something special and unique here.
He’s right: we have something special and unique here. And it’s not an accident.
Then, on August 26, I attended the installation of Rabbi Meredith Kahan as Senior Rabbi at Rockdale Temple. It was moving and inspiring to see this congregation continue, despite the tragic passing of Rabbi Sissy Coran. It was beautiful as she spoke about adversity, change, and moving forward. What I heard was Rabbi Kahan’s message that our communities are aligned—our congregations, our JCC, our Jewish agencies, and the broader Jewish community. Our entire community is moving forward with the same vision and culture.
I believe our community’s culture will drive our results. I am already seeing the changes.
I hope this message of hope for our future will stay with you as we embark upon the High Holidays.
Thanks for caring about our community and what we do.
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