Federation reports a year of crucial work at Annual Meeting

MILWAUKEE – Milwaukee Jewish Federation is building a vibrant Jewish community in Milwaukee, in Israel and around the world, according to Federation President and CEO Miryam Rosenzweig.

And it’s doing so while addressing antisemitism and current community safety issues. 

Rosenzweig made her remarks at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Federation, on Tuesday, Sept. 3 at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay. About 200 people were in attendance. 

Rosenzweig talked about a myriad of needs met, as disparate as serving vulnerable jewish populations, responding to wildfires in Los Angeles, support for local Jewish day schools and camps, opposing domestic violence, and building Milwaukee’s connections with Israel.

“And then we came together to mourn the Jews murdered in the Tree of Life shooting,” she said, with a slide marking the Oct. 27, 2018 synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.

“We couldn’t have done it without all of you,” Rosenzweig said. 

High water mark for Annual Campaign

In her fundraising report, Federation Annual Campaign Chair Lauri Roth said Federation raised $6.45 million for the 2019 Annual Campaign, the highest campaign achievement in seven years. 

“We’re so proud that we’re able to increase funding to each of our agencies this year by nearly three percent,” Roth said. “Your increase in contributions has a direct impact on the agencies you care so much about.”

The Federation funds several local agencies, among them Bader Hillel Academy, the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, Hillel Foundation at UW-Madison, Hillel Milwaukee, Jewish Beginnings Lubavitch Preschool, Jewish Family Services, Milwaukee Jewish Day School, Ovation Communities, and Yeshiva Elementary School. In addition, Federation operates several programs and services of its own: Coalition for Jewish Learning, Israel Center, Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Museum Milwaukee, Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, Women’s Philanthropy, Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, and Young Leadership Division.

Nine new local members have joined the Federation’s Lion of Judah society, which recognizes Annual Campaign gifts of $5,000 to $10,000 or more, Roth said. Meanwhile, the number of Lion of Judah Endowments, which fund Lion of Judah gifts in perpetuity, has grown beyond expectations.

The Economic Forum, too, has been a success and the next one is set for Oct. 29, 2019, Roth said.

“Generous donors like you are choosing to invest in our Federation … We want to give you a heartfelt thank you,” Roth said. “The power of the Federation, its programs and its partner agencies are vital to our community.”

Roth said she especially wanted to thank Women’s Campaign Chair Cheryl Moser for her work. 

Human Services Task Force Chair Nancy Kennedy Barnett said the Federation task force considered two core questions: What are the needs? How do we meet them?

The task force performed exhaustive research, meeting with organizations and connecting with hundreds of individual Jews.

“Based on everything we learned, we decided to pursue four initiatives,” Kennedy Barnett said. She said these are: 1. Continue to invest in advocacy; 2. Hire a Jewish community case manager. 3. Expand memory programs for seniors. 4. Transportation options for seniors and adults with disabilities.

Lisa Hiller, governance and nominating committee chair, gave the nominating committee report. It was during her presentation that local community members were voted onto the Federation board by those present. Esther Ancel, Ann Jacobs and Mike Rosenberg were each given a second two-year term. Eileen Graves and Sharyl Paley were each given a third two-year term. Idy Goodman and Adam Butlein Greenspan were each given a one-year term.

Rabbi Shari Shamah led the invocation, with a welcome by Annual Meeting co-chairs Nancy Kennedy Barnett and Adam Butlein Greenspan. Hazzan Jeremy Stein led the shehecheyanu. 

“We create community, the community we want to live in,” said Kennedy Barnett, referring to the Federation’s work. Butlein Greenspan talked about how his children have attended local Jewish schools and expressed gratitude that Milwaukee is “an amazing place to be Jewish.”

Federation Board Chair Moshe Katz took note of this challenging year of both hate and love. He thanked all the staff of the Federation for its work at this time to a round of applause.

Katz also honored the donors who died over the course of the last year. Names of those lost were presented on a screen, after Katz talked about their rich and amazing lives. 

Security is a community issue

“I never imagined that in my lifetime a community issue would be security,” Rosenzweig said.

But she noted that Federation meets the needs of the times and, in fact, Federation has already been expertly working on security. The Federation connects with Homeland Security and local law enforcement and it’s a central clearinghouse for important, real-time information for local Jewish institutions.

“Only Federation can tackle this huge community issue,” Rosenzweig said. 

Milwaukee Jewish Federation is increasing security assistance for local synagogues.

She noted that Federation is issuing grants of up to $10,000 per synagogue to pay for professional security guards. Funding can be used for security guards at services for High Holy Days this year, as well as throughout the year at Shabbat, religious school and special events.

“We’re here for the Jewish people,” Rosenzweig said. “We’re here for good …. We are a remarkably strong organization with endless potential.”