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Change is happening
May 1st, 2012
“A community is too heavy for anyone to carry alone,” says the Midrash collection Deuteronomy Rabbah (1:10). I walk by this quotation as I enter my office at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation each day.
For me, it is a lifeline, because it reminds me of how crucial it is that we continue to be a community that works together. It reminds me that we are stronger together than any one of us can be alone.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to get to know our community well through my time as a professional in two of our communal organizations, and through active involvement in synagogue life.
I love being part of our Jewish community, and am driven by a strong commitment to giving back to our community that has given my family and me so much.
There is so much need, so much promise, and so much to do that at times being in the middle of Jewish life is overwhelming. Yet it is that very struggle that makes it so rewarding.
The Milwaukee Jewish community benefits from the strong roots of those who helped build this community, with it’s rock-solid support for Israel, excellent Jewish education for children and adults, strong agencies that provide social services with compassion and a wide array of agencies and organizations through which we can connect with Jewish life.
We want — in fact we need — for all of this to continue.
Our community also faces daunting challenges – to seek a path on which we can thrive, to develop financial resources to secure our future, to be more inclusive, to strengthen our relationship with Israel and support Jews in need world-wide, to embrace diversity, and to convene the community around issues of importance.
These were the messages that came out of the Jewish Community Summit last year. These are at the core of what our community said was most important when they voiced their dreams. That process also helped the MJF develop a template for change focusing on its role as fundraiser, convener, and leader.
After last summer’s Strategic Action Session, the Federation convened a small Transition Team to help us meet our promise to adapt for the future.
A Vision Statement is close to being adopted by the MJF Board of Directors that leads by saying “We will know we have reached our vision when…” and has as its first statement, “…we are a community that is like a tree of life deeply rooted in Jewish tradition, tapping our rich heritage for sustenance and growth.”
A new functional structure has been adopted that focuses the work of the MJF around two guiding areas: financial resource development and outreach, engagement and leadership.
In the next fiscal year our staffing, the way our annual campaign operates, the way we reach out to all parts of our community through our communications and our programming will all change to reflect a focus on these two essential areas of operation.
Our vision, combined with the new structure, will be used as a template for decision-making.
What we do, why we do it, how we support the community, how we communicate with and listen to the community will all be put through the lens of our vision and purpose: financial resource development and outreach to fulfill our mission.
I am often asked why the transition is taking so long. But change, true change, involves not just the excitement of newness but also loss and tumult.
It isn’t easy to change an organization more than 100 years old. We know that responsible and transformative change requires respect for the past and a giant dose of patience.
I want to thank those of you who have been more than patient as we make these changes; and I also want to thank those of you who ask how it’s going and when we’ll see results, because I know you care deeply, and your eagerness for progress comes from a very good place.
I believe in this community, and I am empowered by the people who share this passion. I trust that this process of transformation, begun just a year ago, will make us stronger and more united, just as it always has for the generations before us.
Sheryl Primakow is interim executive director of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.