Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s new president and CEO holds a record of success, both in the progressive growth of an annual campaign and in off-the-charts engagement of thousands of young adults.
Miryam Rosenzweig, chief development officer of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, is set to start in Milwaukee in March. Rosenzweig replaces former Milwaukee Jewish Federation CEO and President Hannah Rosenthal, who retired at the end of 2018. Chief Financial Officer Tom Lindow is serving as interim CEO for Milwaukee before Rosenzweig’s start.
Rosenzweig holds a master’s degree in social work, and an undergraduate degree in fine arts and psychology, but her story isn’t just one of a human touch.
In Detroit, she grew the annual campaign in both dollars and number of donors. Over the last 10 years, Detroit has seen six straight years of donor number increase and 10 straight years of philanthropy growth.
Rosenzweig oversaw a $75 million philanthropic effort and team including the Federation’s Annual Campaign, donor advised funds and endowments. She created models of philanthropic data research that are now being used nationally.
“We, the search committee, were tasked to find a generational thinker and doer,” said Milwaukee Jewish Federation Board Chair Moshe Katz. “We hired a nationally renowned and respected recruiter, Sageview, and with Carin Maher’s expertise we vetted over 70 candidates, interviewed seven and had two visit us. Both finalists were wonderful and we are confident we found the ideal person to lead us as the central address for the Milwaukee Jewish community. Vicki Agron, nationally renowned fundraiser and Miryam’s mentor, has taught Miryam the fundamental fundraising question – what would and could someone give if we inspired them to do so? Miryam lives by this quest and I’m excited to be at her side for years to come.”
For Rosenzweig, engagement is deeply connected with fundraising results and she is quick to point out that Jewish values, tikkun olam, taking care of the Jewish people and building a vibrant Jewish future are all what truly matters.
Rosenzweig believes in an interconnected community and partnership among agencies. She feels the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s competition is not other local activities. “It’s Netflix,” she said.
“I believe in (the Federation) being the greatest asset of our agencies and being strong partners,” she said. “Our goal is to be the Amazon.com of Jewish life. The goal is for Federation to be the access point to all things Jewish.”
“Generations before us defined themselves as affiliated with a community in terms of membership – connecting families via neighborhoods, schools and synagogues – and shared generational values – the responsibility of taking care of the local and Jewish global community,” Rosenzweig said for a recent Jewish Federations of North America article.
“Today, changing generational communal values, the internet and the massive mobility of our generation have changed our sense of belonging. We no longer define community strictly by geography or affiliation. Our new definitions of community – or the kinds of connections people make through micro-communities online – have given Federation the unique role of providing a compass and bringing us home.”
Rosenzweig’s philosophy is that a Federation is not just for fundraising but also for “bringing people together,” she told the Chronicle.
“Our brand is Jewish, and Jewish is a team sport,” she said. “The more people who are involved Jewishly the better the Jewish community is.”
In Detroit, Rosenzweig used the image of a funnel: “We first pour a lot of our energy into getting large numbers of people to connect and find a way to feel part of the group, so that some will be moved to give, and an even smaller group will be compelled to lead our efforts. And we fundamentally believe and deliver the message that every part of the funnel is valuable on its own: Caring about our community is valuable; supporting our community is valuable; and of course, leadership is ultimately what we’re trying to develop.”
“Our goal is to help people connect with the community,” Rosenzweig said. “It’s starting with where they are at. For a baby boomer, the phone is a way to communicate first. For a GenZ-er, the phone may be a way to look up information first.”
Rosenzweig connects engagement with Jewish relevance to the individual.
“It’s finding a way for an individual to connect to the Jewish people in a concrete way,” she said. “Not as an individual Jew but as a valuable member, who feels value by being part of a collective.”
Rosenzweig served as director of volunteers at The Educational Alliance in New York City, from 2000 to 2006. She concluded from her work that it’s a volunteer’s motivation that matters. Human behavior is more about motivation than availability.
“We matched the volunteer opportunity … to the actual motivation that brought them into the office,” she said.
It’s a core idea that it’s OK to focus on engagement first, in a way that works for young adults, then turn to fundraising.
At the Jewish Federations of North American, from 2006 to 2010, Rosenzweig worked as a senior manager and then associate director for national young leadership. There, she learned from talking with other Jewish professionals around the nation that reaching young people was not a New York problem. It was a national problem.
Rosenzweig moved to Detroit to serve as founding director for NextGen Detroit from 2011-2014, after having developed and managed the next generation strategy for World ORT, the international Jewish education nonprofit.
NextGen Detroit is a success story, one that has become a national model. A division of Detroit’s federation, it was created to Jewishly engage people ages 21-45.
NextGen Detroit grew from 1,500 participants to 6,000 in a three-year period and has maintained that. Its donor base grew from 1,000 to over 3,300 people.
But most impressive may be the results of a 2018 demographic study sponsored in part by Detroit’s federation. Detroit’s young Jewish adult population more than doubled in the last 10 years. Yes, more young people have moved there and stayed there. And Detroit, as far as is known, Rosenzweig said, is the only community in America where young adults are giving at the same rate as their older peers.
Rosenzweig has spoken about her work at the GA, the national conference of all federations, as well as at conferences of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and in communities, to boards and around the world.
“With her bold and innovative approach to outreach, engagement and leadership, Miryam created a dynamic model that has influenced communities across the country in the engagement of young adult populations,” said Scott Kaufman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
“Miryam is leaving a lasting positive imprint on Jewish Detroit, as her ability to see ‘what could be’ without being limited ‘by what is’ led to the creation of many great and transformative things for our community. Jewish Detroit’s transition from a city that young people were leaving in droves less than a decade ago, to now being a destination for young Jews is in no small part due to her visionary leadership.”
Rosenzweig is one of five children, her father a rabbi. She moved around quite a bit in her youth, growing up in Cleveland; Windsor, Canada; and Israel, mostly in Tzfat and Jerusalem.
“I am most attracted to communities with a real sense of interdependence and community,” she said. “I didn’t understand it until I moved to the Midwest. When I came to Milwaukee I had a sense that regardless of denominational affiliation, agency priority or just general involvement, the Milwaukee community is a community.”
She’ll be moving to Milwaukee with her husband Matt Buchi. She starts as the new CEO and president of Milwaukee Jewish Federation on March 13.