Together, We Accomplish Great Things: A Message From Our President & CEO

At every annual meeting I get up to tell the story of what Federation accomplished that year. For those of you who weren't able to make it to our 2020 annual meeting, I'd like to share it with you now. It’s always a good story. We accomplish great things together. But you already know that.

You know that we raise a lot of money – in 2019 we raised $6.5 million in restricted and unrestricted funds.

You know that we convert those dollars into support for everyone, from the oldest to the youngest among us. We provide funds to 21 different organizations doing the work of our community.

Today, I want to tell you about things you might not know – the things we do that would not happen if it weren’t for Federation.

Do you know… we have an indigent burial fund? It’s not something we talk about much. It’s not a “sexy” thing to raise money for. It’s more fun to send kids to Jewish overnight camp or run an internship program for college students. But death and burial are very significant in Jewish life. In a given year, five to ten people in our community pass away without the resources left behind to provide for an appropriate Jewish burial. Thanks to a partnership with JFS, the Rabbinical Association, synagogues and cemeteries, Louis Memorial Chapel, and the Chevra Kadisha,

Federation is able to provide a proper, dignified Jewish burial. There is little the Federation does that speaks more to our Jewish values.

Do you know… we have a low-interest loan program? Through our partnership with JFS and Security Bank, we provide Federation-backed loans when people need a helping hand. Whether it’s to assist with unplanned expenses or help someone consolidate credit card debt, Federation is here to help. Loans are not an easy thing to raise money for. It’s much more fun to talk about the J’s Heritage Center, or Tribe KC and Moishe House. But while we’re talking about those things, we’re helping people get back on their feet, because that’s what Federation does.

Do you know… about the Chesed Fund? This fund provides approximately $11,000 per month to meet the most basic of human needs. Once again, it’s not as much fun to talk about utility or home repair bills. We’d rather talk about rebuilding Jewish life in Eastern Europe and providing inclusion services for kids with special needs. But while we’re talking about those things, we’re quietly raising funds to pay medical bills for Holocaust survivors, because that’s also what Federation does.

While we’re meeting the basic needs of the most vulnerable in our community, we’re also looking to the future.

We recently began our second cohort of the Statland Leadership Institute, which introduces emerging leaders to Federation and the community, and prepares them to begin their journey in Jewish leadership. These are the people who will build and lead our community in the future.

Speaking of building the future, legacy giving is vital, and will be a focus for the Federation this year. The annual campaign is crucial to our community today, but legacy giving will not only secure, but transform the future, by ensuring that generations to come will benefit from our generosity and foresight.

Of course, securing our future means a focus on physical security, as we heard last week from Brad Orsini, Senior National Security Advisor at Secure Community Network. Federation works with our organizations on a daily basis to keep our community safe. That requires not only resources, but forward thinking to adapt to changing security needs. Federation will continue to collaborate with our partners to create and implement a comprehensive plan for community security.

I’m also excited to announce that we are looking into the feasibility of a comprehensive community study in 2020.

The last complete study of this community was done in 1986. In 1986, this building did not exist. There was no Sprint campus and no Town Center. Village Shalom was located on Holmes, and Congregation Beth Shalom was still on Wornall. There was still a Berlin Wall and a Soviet Union, from which Jews were not allowed to emigrate.

We know a lot has changed in the more than 33 years since that study, but, what specifically has changed, and how? How and where is our community aging? How many young people live downtown, and what is the likelihood they will stay and build our community? If congregational affiliation is down, what connects people to community? What are the needs of our young families? What will it take to ensure our future?

A comprehensive community study would position us to build our community on a foundation of knowledge about our current reality and the trends shaping the future. This would be a significant undertaking and require a community-wide effort. A community study would tell us where we are now and position us to build a shared vision, and our collaborations can make that vision a reality. The more collaborative we are as a community, the more we can accomplish.

Which brings me to this important point. Atop the list of the many important roles the Federation plays is that of convener of the community. Not one of our agencies, organizations, or congregations, Federation included, can meet the needs of our community alone. We need each other, and we need a table to gather around. Federation sets that table.

This is a great community. We are a community that co-sponsors programs, shares information and expertise, and promotes each other’s events. We are all committed to preserving and promoting our Jewish tradition and culture. But to realize the potential of our community, we need more than cooperation. We need to collaborate in response to community needs. We need a shared vision and common goals.

We read in Pirkei Avot: “It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.” As long as there are Jews in need, as long as there are Jewish children to educate and Jewish souls to nourish, our work will never be finished. The generations before us laid the strong foundation on which we stand. It is our responsibility to build on that foundation, to adapt it for 2020 and beyond, and to leave it stronger for the next generation.

Thank you for being a part of our community and for your commitment to this work. I look forward to collaborating with you.