Channeling Letterman


My Own Top 10

This past Wednesday night was David Letterman’s final late night show. Beyond his wit and humor, and along with wonderful and talented celebrity/musical/pet guests, were his daily Top 10 lists. According to reports, the first Top 10 list aired on September 18, 1985 (see below), a far cry from what they became.

dave-letterman

This weekend, we will celebrate Shavuot, a harvest festival holiday seven weeks following Passover when the Jewish people celebrate the receiving of the Ten Commandments. Thus, in honor of David Letterman (an idea I got from one of the Federation professionals) and Shavuot, here is my own Top 10 list – “Top 10 Jewish Issues for Today” (which will continue to evolve)…

10.  Security – Hatred continues to rear its ugly head around the world. Anti-Semitism is growing in many parts of the world, and in some cases, it is disguised as anti-Zionism. We must be vigilant in our efforts to keep our community and its institutions safe and secure.

9.  Collaboration/mergers/efficiencies – In the past year we have already seen several Jewish organizations merge and greater collaboration throughout our communal system. We will see more in the future. It is inevitable. Not only will it create more efficient organizations, it should also reduce redundancy in programs and services and provide greater excellence in our work. Increased joint programming, new initiatives, sharing of spaces, and working together to meet common demands are needed more today than ever.

8.  Integrating newcomers – In almost every Jewish community demographic study, the reports state that it takes close to 20 years for a newcomer to “feel a part of the Jewish community.” Anecdotally, I hear this from people who move to Portland – they just do not feel a part of the Jewish community or find it hard to navigate their way. Our Jewish community continues to grow with the influx of people (all ages) to Portland. How do we as a community welcome these individuals, share with them the multitude of Jewish communal opportunities, and invite them to participate in Portland’s Jewish life?

7.  Enhancing the Jewish experience (and creating more of them) – Isn’t this what it is all about – the experience? We can all eat at various restaurants, visit different places, and watch a show – but we do not remember what we ate, every place we visited, and what happened on each episode. What we do remember are the actual experiences (with others or personal) we did have. We remember our bar/bat mitzvah…days at Jewish summer camp…standing under the chuppah at one’s wedding…attending our child’s bris or naming …trip(s) to Israel… etc. These are Jewish experiences! How can we find ways to facilitate more of them in affordable, accessible, and meaningful ways for greater numbers of people to participate?

6.  Israel –We must be willing to accept that there are multiple ways to look at Israel today – and remain vigilant in our pro-Israel efforts, messaging, and mindset.

5.  Evaluate our impact – How do we know as a community we are being successful? What programs or services are making an impact? We need to invest in longitudinal evaluation tools to quantify and qualify “changes in Jewish behavior” and not base our success on attendance figures, fundraising results, and anecdotal stories.

4.  The Rise of Social Media – Social media has completely changed the way we publically and instantaneously interact with one another. In many cases, it is how people build relationships. I, however, am not much of a Facebook/Twitter/social media user (I should be), yet I understand that to reach out to (younger) community members, I must embrace today’s mode of communications and technology. I need to “speak” to people in the way they access information. Every Jewish organization in Portland is just scratching the social media surface of how we can generate the interest of today and tomorrow’s generation.

3.  Call for More Leaders – Serving on Jewish organizational boards and committees used to be a rite of passage — a way to connect, meet new people, and offer insights/wisdom in how to strengthen an organization. And, over time many people would serve on various boards and committees throughout the community. Today, serving seems of less interest. The potential time and financial commitment may be too much for some. The necessary work/volunteer-life balance can be challenging. And, we just may not have enough people who want to lead. We must work together as a community to develop/cultivate leaders to ensure a strong future for all our Jewish organizations.

2.  Focus on the End User – This is an area the Jewish Federation is heavily focused on. In the past, our allocations have been focused on large grants to partner Jewish agencies. Today, we are also moving towards funding the “end user.” Several examples include: PJ Library books directly go to the child (and their family), One Happy Camper (incentive grants for first-time Jewish overnight campers) and Jewish Right Start (incentive grants for new preschool children in Jewish preschools) directly go to the family, Teen Israel scholarship funds go towards the cost of a teen’s Israel program, etc. These funding initiatives are not about an organization — they are about the individual’s participation and experience.

1.  What does our community truly need and truly want? – We did a community study six years ago that yielded limited information. Perhaps it is time for our community to invest in a new study – a market survey asking the entire Jewish community what programs and services they most want in Jewish life. Perhaps we are funding initiatives of little value and interest, and, conversely, providing too little funds to those things that matter most. To better understand YOU and YOUR FAMILY at various life stages will make us more successful for the near- and long-term.

This is my Top 10 list for today – and I know it will change tomorrow. Tell me what’s on your Top 10 list?

Shabbat Shalom, may we all learn during and celebrate the Shavuot holiday, and have a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend.

Marc Blattner is president and CEO of the
Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.



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