Wow. Change can be good.

Posted on October 13, 2009

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I would like to announce a winner in the Jewish Community Hero’s campaign.  Ok…maybe not.  But I would like to announce that Beach Hillel and our long time leaders Rachel and Rabbi Yonah Bookstein (who has won the popular vote of the above mentioned contest) have been recognized and rewarded for our stellar program.  After years of hard work and community building, Beach Hillel just received word that the allocation from the Jewish Federation is increasing 300% to $26,000.

The leadership of the Allocations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Long Beach and West Orange County made a difficult decision this week.  They decided that despite the terrible economic situation, it was time to reevaluate the criteria used (in part) to determine which of the beneficiary agencies would receive what amount of funds.  Beach Hillel has traditionally been the recipient of the smallest amount of Federation funds in our community by a long long long shot.  Hillel received roughly $8K from the annual campaign.  The Hebrew Academy was next up the list bringing in $30K.  JFCS received about $60K.  So Hillel’s allocation was somewhere between embarrassing and disheartening. Or maybe insulting…. It certainly did not shout “hey Beach Hillel…you guys are a great partner! Thanks for looking after the college students and coming up with programs, such as the Jewlicious Festival!”

So my Jewish Community Heros of the fiscal year are the members of the Allocations Committee and the Board of Directors.  Either body could have sat back and done what has been done for years.  But by breaking with the status quo and being willing to make reasoned change, the Board showed remarkable leadership.  Their decision is going to hurt other organizations and the client base they serve.  No doubt that Jewish Family and Children’s Service in Long Beach needs funds.  They are seeing cuts in donations and grants at a time when people are literally walking in the door with empty pockets, suffering the effects of unemployment and stress.  I feel for Wendy and her team.   Same with Rabbi Newman.  I don’t feel that Hillel won and am not pleased that we saw an increase while others will need to figure out how to deal with the impact to their operations.

However, Hillel needs to function in order for our community to have a future.  Years of Federation leaders have opted not to fund Hillel, artificially inflating the amount of funds available to other organizations.  It is unfortunate that it took an economic crisis to cause the Federation’s leadership to reevaluate.  But history shows that during recessions things tend to shake themselves out.

So to all of the Board members who spoke out in favor of raising Beach Hillel’s funding level, I want you to know that I appreciate your efforts.  I understand what kind of character it took to make a decision like this.  If we fulfill our mission of helping to connect Jewish college students to the community, to their history, and to Israel, they will return the investment somewhere, some time.

For months I’ve felt like a quarterback with the ball on my own one yard line…at 3rd down and 10.    As board president, the funding is a big relief–I’m  now playing the game from the 20 and can again focus on moving forward.

The Long Beach Jewish Federation’s Board and Allocation’s committee….my Jewish Community Heros hard at work.

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