What makes us different as a Federation

(photo) Connecting | Dallas was excited to welcome Nisa Harris to the Challah Bake. Nisa and her family moved to Dallas from Memphis in August, and are thrilled to be a part of the Akiba-Yavneh and DATA of Plano communities. 

By now you have likely seen our new tagline around town. Prominently displayed on lawn signs at synagogues, Jewish day schools and our partner agencies, we are: Here For You. Here For Good. The work of our Jewish Federation is done on behalf and in behalf of all of us. A strong and financially robust Federation helps create a vibrant local Jewish community by helping us to live Jewishly – and we each define what that means. 

Once Federation was just a fundraising organization allocating needed dollars to local Jewish organizations. Today, we have expanded our work to include much more than raising and allocating charitable dollars; we now provide services that no one organization can provide solely on its own. For example, the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas unrestricted annual campaign and the Korenvaes Family Foundation fund the Community Security Initiative (CSI). Since its inception CSI has ensured the safety and resilience of our community, creating a culture of responsiveness and preparedness. Additionally, in an effort to welcome the thousands of Jews who move to Dallas each year and help them find their place in our community we created Connecting | Dallas. Led by Peta Silanksy, the program engages, assists and connects new Jews to everything Jewish in Dallas. In both of these Federation serves in a role of convening the larger community. 

Convening on behalf of the greater Dallas Jewish community with its goal of building strong relationships, identifying areas of collaboration, tackling mutual challenges or sharing best practices is something unique to a Jewish Federation. More than a year ago our Center for Jewish Education (CJE), with the urging of Jewish Family Service (JFS), arranged ongoing meetings with local Jewish day schools to explore issues of special needs and inclusion. As a direct result, CJE commissioned a study to explore growing needs in Dallas and expand its research to include both formal and informal Jewish education. These meetings also led to the hiring, by JFS, of a full-time diagnostic technician to work with the Aaron Family JCC and local Jewish day schools. 

While it may not always not be our role to provide the actual program or deliver the actual service, it is always our role to ensure we work as a collective and build support for each other. We live in a Jewish community vibrant with national and international presence, with growing numbers of places of worship and historic schools and agencies. We work hard to explore how we supplement one another’s work, interact productively and – most importantly – collaborate on needed programs for the community and at-risk populations.

That is exactly what I experienced while attending Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) FedLab in November. At FedLab, a three-day intensive experience, we focused on the Jewish world’s most pressing concerns. With expert facilitators, policy and philanthropic thought leaders, FedLab engaged the 800 participants in deep conversations and interactive problem solving around national mutual challenges facing each of our Jewish communities. The Dallas Federation’s delegation returned energized to bring together our Jewish organizational partners around pressing issues such as Jewish poverty and the growing number of Jewish elderly living below or slightly above the poverty line. We began to dream what our Jewish community will look like over the next decade and what we need to do to ensure its safety, security and vibrancy. 

This is the work I feel so impassioned by. Equally important to raising the dollars and allocating them out, I am tasked with the unique role of helping to lead our Federation to convene our community. As the beacon we tackle challenges, address impending needs and position our community to collaborate and act with respect and dignity. This important work is not a light switch to be immediately turned on and off; rather, a dimmer switch which will grow brighter over time. I am confident that – in this role – the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas will be continue to be Here For You. Here For Good.

 

Mariam Shpeen Feist
President & CEO