Standing Still Never Gets You Anywhere

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a “stand still” kind of person. Even with my illness I get restless the less I move. I don’t stand in one place for a long time. And I don’t intend for the Jewish community to do so either.

Spring in the northeast is a great time to address not standing still. The winters here can certainly make you appreciate the warmer weather of the spring and the feeling that we can do so much more. The weather is less inhibiting; the greening of the lawns, the colors of the flowers and the greater daylight hours call to us to move forward. Spring means graduations and lots of new beginnings.

That’s the good news.

Spring also means the Federation’s annual allocations process. Everyone knows Federation runs a fundraising campaign. But many are unaware of, or take for granted, the annual allocations process. I have been doing this work for 33 plus years, and frankly, I enjoy raising the money more than spending the money. Even the Talmud points out how difficult it is to allocate limited funds. In Tractate Shabbat, it is written “May I be among the collectors of communal funds, and not among the allocators.” 

We don’t raise money for the sake of raising money. What would fundraising be were it not for the fund distribution process? We have an excellent committee of community volunteers who review the funding requests from our beneficiary agencies, synagogues and organizations. They do a marvelous job ensuring the accountability, entrusted by our donors, of the entire fundraising and fund distribution process. 

Invariably, the requests from our beneficiaries far exceed the available funds in our allocations process. And when we don’t have enough funds for new programs or to expand existing programs, we start to stand still. 

That’s the bad news.

The Jewish Day School has asked for increased funding to improve their educational offerings. They want to provide special resources for students who need additional help learning. They want to expand educational technology. Both are projects parents expect of every school.

Jewish Family Service seeks to expand two programs which first went through successful pilots. One increases home-delivered meals to Jewish elderly and another provides expanded programming for seniors in a special partnership with the Jewish Community Center. And speaking of our JCC, they want to sustain an expanding afterschool enrichment program that must underwrite costly bus transportation.

Our campus Hillels are all refocusing from being program-centered to being engagement-centered. At a time when we are sensing separation and isolation from other groups, our Bethlehem Jewish community and the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding are both focusing on expanding interfaith outreach.

The synagogues who share in the Jewish Family Life Education grants make a compelling case for growing this informal, content-enriched “in-reach” into Jewish life. And the past few years have reminded us that our efforts to address anti-Semitism, prejudice and anti-Israel propaganda cannot be lessened.

And space in this column does not allow me to begin to address the needs of Jews around the world.

And I could go on.

For our community to move forward, we need the right amount of several things. 

We need visionary leadership at our agencies and synagogues, the front-line of service delivery in our community, to call our attention to how we can improve Jewish life in the Lehigh Valley. We have that. 

We need responsible agencies and synagogues able to deliver effective programs. We have that. 

We need a communal vision and leadership able to distribute funds to emerging priorities while addressing the efficacy of funding existing services. We have that. 

So what do we need more of? We need more people involved in raising money, more donors, and more increasing contributions. 

So, let’s make it easier on those who decide on the distributions. Let’s help them decide how to grow and strengthen our community as opposed to what services we must reduce or cease. Let’s focus on what we will do as opposed to what we can’t do.

Please call us at 610-821-5500 or go to www.jewishlehighvalley.org and make your commitment to our Annual Campaign. Please contact us if you can find your way to increasing a pledge or contribution previously made. Our need at this time is a pledge, a commitment to make a contribution. While you can pay now, you contribution is not due for some time. But we need your pledge by the close of our fiscal year on June 30 to count in our allocations process.

In more ways than one, without your support, involvement and generosity, we become a “stand-still” community. And I know this community won’t “stand” for that