Whenever I am asked why I spend so much time volunteering for the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, I ask back a simple question: “What would our community look like without the Jewish Federation?” No Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus. No Jewish Tuition Organization. No staff at Arizona State University fighting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement … the list goes on. So, my answer is simple: “The federation is the lifeblood of our community.”
I personally want my kids growing up in an environment in which they feel like The J is a second home and in which they can attend a strong Jewish day school. Though my kids may not go to ASU and participate in Hillel, many parents’ children will. My parents may never benefit from the services of the federation-funded JFCS Senior Concierge, but thousands of other seniors do. Without federation, none of this happens. A strong federation, through its planning, convening, capacity building, engagement and funding, provides a strong foundation for the community that enables our synagogues, schools and other organizations to blossom.
While I do give my time, and some dollars, to very worthwhile non-Jewish community organizations, I recognize that only Jews will support Jewish causes. If we want them to exist, we need to dedicate a significant portion of our time and dollars to ensure that they do.
The federation is no longer just a distributor of dollars. It is an organization that identifies needs and gaps in our community and helps determine how to fill them. As board chair for the past two years, I have seen the enormous work necessary to bring together the various community constituents to build a vibrant and sustainable community.
Federation does so many things that aren’t promoted enough. Among them:
- helping to create a solution that not only resolved the Valley of the Sun JCC’s pool issue, but that made a huge positive impact on The J for its members and the community
- conducting emergency campaigns to combat the BDS movement and address anti-Semitism in Europe
- helping thousands of persecuted Jews from all over the world gain safety through aliyah to Israel
- rescuing community organizations in crisis, such as the East Valley Jewish Community Center devastation from fire
- assisting Hillel at ASU to restructure its leadership and funding needed staff positions
- building a successful Israel Center to connect our community more fully with Israel
There is so much more beyond the funding that the federation does and we look forward to sharing more with you in the future. I am extremely excited about the future of our community and the role that the federation can play in it.
Happy and Healthy New Year. L’Shanah Tova.
Steven Schwarz is chairman of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix Governing Board of Directors.