I want to take this opportunity to extend a hearty Mazel Tov to Elaine Goldstine on being named CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. Elaine's success will be our success as a community, and as such we all wish her the best in tackling the challenges we face as a community.
Elaine has great interpersonal skills and knows how to build relationships, which I foresee will prove to be a great asset in her position. She is a real people person and everyone knows that people give not only to causes, but to people. The campaign has reached its goal of $5.75 million, surpassing last year's campaign. This is a very positive development, and a solid footing on which to move forward. Mazel Tov to Bryan Klein for leading this year's campaign.
Elaine takes over the reins of the Federation at a critical time. There are several issues that I foresee that the Federation will have to grapple with, specifically in relation to planning for the community. This is a task that only the Federation has and as such it is a crucial and critical piece needed for the Federation's success and our success as a community. The Federation has the unique position of being the body responsible overall for ensuring Jewish continuity in Winnipeg - in other words for ensuring that we have a critical mass of engaged Jews such that we can maintain all of the needed facilities and infrastructure to continue to be an organized and vibrant community.
In terms of demographics, last year the Federation indicated that we had approximately 13,600 Jews in Winnipeg. In her December CEO message Elaine indicated we have had 372 new immigrants to the community and she wrote to me in an email that she anticipates roughly the same amount this year. In terms of planning I believe it will be critical to understand how many new immigrants we are likely to have in the next 5-10 years. That is because, aside from new immigrants, it appears that we have a declining shrinking base of native Winnipeggers, given the amount of Jews leaving the province and also given a declining birth rate (which is occurring in Jewish communities around North America). In fact, in terms of birth rate, the only area of a growing birthrate for Jews in North America is among Orthodox Jews, and since we have very few Orthodox members of our community, it is reasonable to assume that in our community the birthrate is falling. Leaving aside issues of assimilation, I am not sure if we have fallen below two children per household, but if we have, then looking forward, the only area of growth for our community that I can foresee will be immigration.
In our community, unlike many Jewish communities in Canada, the Jewish Foundation is not an arm of the Jewish Federation. Even though they are separate, in my view the overall purpose of both these organizations is to ensure Jewish continuity in this city. This will mean ongoing co-operation and consultation. I see these two organizations as being like two lungs, which both need to be working together with co-ordination to enable us to breathe well. I also believe that our community has shrunk to a size that means that in the future there will only need to be increased co-operation and consultation between the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation in order to map out an overall strategy for our continued well-being as a community.
Every year the Jewish Federation's Planning Department gives a list of "community priorities" to the Jewish Foundation's grants officer, in order to assist the Foundation in distributing its grants in a way that accords with the community's overall needs. This is a crucial interface between the two organizations, and one which is necessary for the overall health of our community. Further into 2016, I intend to ask the Jewish Federation to release to the media an outline of what it believes are "community priorities" for 2016, and the general basis on which it arrived at this conclusion--it is information that I believe is in the public interest. I have no doubt that under Elaine Goldstine's dedicated leadership the Federation will be able to articulate community priorities for 2016 such that we will all understand both the challenges and great opportunities facing our community at this juncture.
On the issue of planning, I want to outline a hypothetical-it is purely a hypothetical (the kind I was trained in law school to think about). Let's say that the Federation said that this year providing for our seniors was the first community priority but the Foundation thought that based on what it was hearing on the ground that providing for our summer camps was more of a priority. What happens? Would the Foundation tell the Federation it disagreed with the community priorities as set by the Federation? I am not entirely sure I would like to hope that there would be some dialogue back and forth, until consensus was achieved in the event of differing views. Yet at the same time, I would think that theoretically, since the Foundation is a separate and distinct organization (not an arm of the Federation), in the event the Foundation disagreed with Federation priorities or didn't understand how Federation arrived at these priorities, or felt that the underlying logic in attaining this list of priorities was faulty, then it could proceed on the basis of priorities it sets out for itself when distributing its grants. How ever you look at it, there's no question in my mind that the overall success of this community in the future will be based on a Federation and Foundation being on the "same page" in their understanding of what community priorities are for ensuring Jewish continuity, and also in working collaboratively hand-in-hand in ensuring that these priorities receive the necessary degree of funding.
In regard to planning, Carol Duboff is the new chair of planning for the Federation, and as Elaine has said in her CEO message this month "The Community Planning Committee, chaired by Carol Duboff, is gearing up to launch a broad based visioning and community planning process that will consult widely with partner agencies, other Jewish organizations, and community members."
Elaine takes over the reins of the Federation as the same time as Adam Levene begins his two-year term as President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg (with Laurel Malkin as Vice-President). In his remarks at the Federation General Annual Meeting, Adam noted that "this is not a time to become complacent".
He added " We do know from our planning, research and participation in national and international committees that:
1) The individuals who comprise our community are changing. They live in different neighborhoods, participate in Jewish activities on a different basis and may have different needs than we currently plan for;
2) The cost of living a Jewish Life is becoming increasingly cost prohibitive for some members of our community;
3) That while our campaign has increased almost every year in the last 10 we experienced a small decline last year which almost all related to the loss of certain large gifts and in most cases based on circumstances beyond our control;
4) That while participation in our programs and the programs in many of our agencies continues to be strong and in many cases exceed expectations, some agencies, community institutions and synagogues are suffering with a decline in participation and membership;
So this is clearly not a time become complacent. During the next year, we will sharpen our focus to deal with our changing community including looking at:
1) How we run our campaign and improving on use of technology and social media to increase our reach and improve efficiency;
2) A review of governance of our board, executive and committees;
3) An increased focus on endowment and collaboration with the Jewish Foundation of
Manitoba and our donors to ensure that gifts are not lost due to death or otherwise;
4) An evaluation of our community relation and engagement programming to make sure that we continue to meet the needs of our community. This will include working collaboratively with our agencies in ensuring the appropriate party is delivering needed services;
5) Continued emphasis on relations with the broader Winnipeg community;
6) How we allocate monies and communicate with our agencies and community partners;
7) How we can work better with our international and national partners to ensure that our views and support are available on the national and international stage."
In his remarks, Levine also said, "While we have started on many of these initiatives in a preliminary fashion, it has been more than 5 years since Federation last completed a strategic plan. We have commenced the process of engaging a facilitator to work with us as we plan for the next five years and beyond... We will report to you in the coming months as we commence planning for this important process."