Heading forward

The Jewish Community Association’s second annual meeting on Wednesday was charged with optimism. The agency and its supporters seemed well ready to put to rest the past few years of uncertainty and transition, and to embrace the evening’s theme, “The Power of You, Creating Ripples of Change.”

Stuart Wachs, president and CEO, pointed out positive highlights of the year, such as a high ranking from Quality First! for the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center’s preschool; 700 attendees at Young Jewish Phoenix’s Mazelpalooza, an increase of 200 attendees from the 2011 party; the community’s first Birthright Israel trip; and the Rally for Israel after the conflict with Gaza.

In addition to a program, attendees at the event, held at Congregation Beth Israel, were handed a 2012 Annual Report featuring short biographies of the honorees, lists of incoming and outgoing board members, some information on the community allocation process, a line-item breakdown of fund distributions in 2012, and pie charts illustrating “2012 Preliminary Financials,” including an amount
($1.9 million) that will be allocated in 2013 and percentage breakdowns showing in what categories those funds will be allocated. The largest category at 14.3 percent is general operations support, followed by donor-directed giving at 13.4 percent. Social services will receive 9 percent, 7.2 percent will go to Israel and overseas partners, 3.2 percent will go to outreach, another 3.2 percent will go to Jewish education, and 2.8 percent will be allocated to day schools.

Without specifically mentioning these breakdowns, Wachs explained that last percentage (and how the day schools differ from Jewish education) at the meeting. The majority of allocations under the association’s process are for programs rather than agencies, but the day school allocations are now being funded on a per-student basis.

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The choice of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield as the evening’s guest speaker underscored the mood. He said that what many people think of as a breakdown or disappearance of community is actually a change in the way that people experience being part of a community, doing things like organizing vast political movements using online communities whose participants might never have met one another but who are united in a cause. He talked about community as “the complete integration of independence and interdependence,” adding that “our best selves always emerge in community.”  He explained that when a community recognizes that it’s not a place for people to enter but rather a place that helps individuals attain their goals, then it can engage and grow. “There is no individual without community, there’s no such thing” and  “There’s no community without a lot of you’s.”

He promised that if this community would focus on his prescription, that next year’s meeting would be celebrating major growth in engaged participation.

Photo of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield by Salvatore Caputo

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