For the first half of my life, I was unaware that I was a recipient of federation dollars. I spent every day after school at the JCC tennis center or gym and many weekends at its pool. I attended Hebrew High and Camp Ramah, and I went to Israel while in high school. More recently, as a Start-Me-Up fellow, I developed a leadership adventure program for teens. In my mind none of these activities had anything to do with federation. I was wrong.
The JCC, BJE, scholarships to both camps and the Israel trip, and the Start-Me-Up fellowship are all part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix. In addition to my strong family involvement and amazing parents, these experiences shaped who I am today.
As a parent, I believe strongly in helping my children understand the importance of tzedakah. I want my family to call Israel their second home. As I think about my goals for my family, I realize many are fulfilled by the federation.
I love that federation helped move Pardes (Jewish Day School) to the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus. I love that federation creates a strong presence with the Israel Center, bringing Israel’s unique culture to our community and strengthening our younger generation’s Jewish identity through education and personal connection to Israel. I love that federation is a hub of Jewish engagement and giving, supporting more than 20 agencies in the Valley, and others in Israel and in over 70 other countries throughout the world.
In October my husband, Jonathan, and I went on our first mission to Israel. Those seven days were life-changing. We saw federation’s impact firsthand, from being touched by the amazing families at the Ethiopian Absorption Center who were learning how to live in their new home to being mesmerized by a young woman providing pre-military education to teenage girls in the Israeli periphery. We saw that federation matters.
Jonathan and I realized that while we have never personally designated funds to these groups, they are supported by federation dollars and they are such worthy causes – causes we may not have known about, but that are so important. And while we cannot vet every Jewish agency in the world, I know that when we give to the federation, our gift is improving the quality of life of Jews in need in our community, in Israel and throughout the world.
Through federation, we can make a difference in this community and in Jewish communities around the world. Come find your seat at the table.
Rachel Hoffer is major gifts co-chair of the 2015 Annual Campaign of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix.