A Leader's Update: Our Product Lines

The following blog first appeared Friday, May 25, as an email update from Keith Krivitzky, CEO, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I’ve had Israel on the brain a lot of late, for obvious reasons, which is why I want to focus on something completely different…where Israel is just a supporting element. I want to talk a bit about how far we have come as a Jewish Federation in the past few years.

Federations were great vehicles for ensuring the collective well-being of Jewish communities back when there were cohesive Jewish communities with broad buy-in from local Jews. I think we all recognize that Jewish community has evolved quite significantly in the past few decades, where the key question or consideration today isn’t what the community wants, but the nature and integrity of the Jewish community itself.

Jewish Federations have always been about strengthening the Jewish community, but as Jewish demands and challenges have shifted, the Federation has needed to change as well. Many Federations have been struggling with this. Our Federation has set forth the goal of being a community problem solver, and addressing issues and area where there are gaps or needs in our community.

This has meant a shift in how we do business or, rather, more focused attention to how we operate as a business. Which means clarifying and understanding the business we are in…what we are selling, what are our products, who are our customers, what does our team look like, who are our investors, and what is our financial model? Fundraising, which in many Federations is the tail that wags the dog, is instead a means to an end…not the end in and of itself. Volunteers and professionals are a means to an end…delivering on our mission and valuable insofar as they are aligned with selling our product/s to our desired audiences.

I’ve shared much of this before, and there are important considerations and questions about what Jewish leadership means now and the role of consensus, but I want to take a few moments to share what I think this mean today in terms of who we are as the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey what we are selling, the “spaces” we “own” in our community, and what success can look like. These different product lines are targeted to different markets or audiences where we think we need to and can move the dial.

Of course, each area has a lot more background and thinking which can be unpacked, but as we are approaching the summer I have been thinking a bit on what we have become so far, and where we have yet to go. And, since sharing is caring, I am sharing and would welcome your thoughts and feedback.

  1. Encouraging Jewish philanthropy and ensuring effective philanthropic investments have been and remain a core function of the Jewish Federation, and we aspire to be the best way to have a meaningful impact in the Jewish world. Today, we do so through our annual campaign, as well as through directed and targeted funding opportunities. Yes, fundraising is a means to an end…but this area is still a very important offering in our community and one where we offer many tailored/curated options, from legacy giving to giving circles to individual philanthropic investment plans and projects.
  2. Our leadership, and much of the Jewish world, have recognized that engaging young children and their parents/families is one of the most important target audiences we can reach, and our Federation has close to 2500 kids receiving PJ Library books and materials every month. We are expanding our programming to and engagement of this audience, and will be exploring ways to better promote and help support Jewish early childhood and camp opportunities.
  3. In the past few years, we have identified Israel engagement as a top priority, since many in our community don’t have a personal connection to Israel or even an understanding of why Israel should matter. The programming we have enabled in our community is second to none, including a significant Israel Journey in October and two youth ambassadors who will be spending a year with us. We recognized a need, set this as a goal, and have delivered.
  4. We are the front line for responding to a crisis. Whether following hurricanes, or addressing a different type of crisis…like security. We are now working with partners on another round of Homeland Security grant funding and have helped secure more than $1M in funding in the <3 of NJ in each of the past 2 years. That’s a pretty impressive value-add and ROI.
  5. One area where we have stepped up…but are not yet sure of our role or capacity to fully own is in responding to hate and anti-semitism in our area. When issues happen, we are often called and take the lead most recently in terms of incidents in a local high school and at Rutgers University; we also seek opportunities to make connections and have an impact, such as funding a program where local law enforcement visit the Holocaust museum with Chhange (the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education). However, more needs to be done to address bigotry and bias proactively and we need to evaluate our position and ability to be truly effective in this space.
  6. Another area where we will be expanding our work is in teen philanthropy. We just “graduated” another cohort of J-Team, which learns about Jewish philanthropy and makes grants to good causes. We think we have a niche here where we can expand Jewish leadership and commitment among local teens and enhance understanding of Jewish values as well as support for Jewish causes. This will be an important future “product line” of the Jewish Federation.
  7. Lastly (for now), another area where we need to reframe and expand a new product line is in engaging and expanding networking among local professionals and business leaders. Keep an eye out for a new Jewish Chamber of Commerce in the Heart of New Jersey, which I hope will be one of our key initiatives in the second half of the year.

Or course, there is more that we do…but as opposed to our parents’ Jewish Federations, or even our Federations pre-merger, we now deliver vital services and outcomes in our community. As someone said to me the other day we’re not just another pretty face. We should be proud of how far we’ve come. And we still have further to go.

With that, a bunch of reads for the weekend:

With that, best for a Shabbat Shalom and a good Memorial Day Weekend!



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