We are here, together...
Every year at Federation's Annual Meeting, I talk about what we've learned, as an organization and as a community. For those of you who weren't able to make it to our recent Virtual Annual Meeting, I'd like to share those lessons with you now. (You can also watch my speech here, or see the recording of the entire event here.)
In 2020, we learned a lot – we learned how to wear masks, how to participate in a religious service through our computer, and, although sometimes we forget, we learned how to mute and unmute ourselves on Zoom. We learned what we need to live and what we can live without.
Here’s what I learned: That through it all, and through whatever is to come, we are still here, together. We are still a community. We may not be in our buildings or in each other’s homes; we have missed being in our sanctuaries and around holiday tables, but we are here, together. We have struggled and sacrificed, but we have also become more intentional and more generous - to ourselves and each other.
None of us ever could have imagined what we’ve been through – and are still going through. But even for the unimaginable year that was 2020, Federation was ready, just by doing the things we do year in and year out. Our agencies and congregations were ready, too. And together we have seen our community through.
Federation closed its doors on March 13 and immediately went to work responding to our new reality. We postponed the opening of our 2020 annual campaign to focus on raising $75,000 for the Chesed Fund, which provides financial assistance to those most in need in our community. In addition, we raised $50,000 to make small, low-interest loans available to help individuals and families through this crisis. We also joined with our partners, the Jewish Community Foundation and Menorah Heritage Foundation, to create a Stabilization Fund to assist our community institutions.
We have convened our agencies and developed professional working groups to identify needs and develop a community response to our community crisis. I want to recognize the work of all of the professionals in our community who, in partnership with volunteer leadership, have seen to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our community members. The day our institutions closed their doors, their work became harder, more intense, and never ending. And they didn’t miss a beat. We owe all of them our immeasurable gratitude.
I must also highlight the work of Federation over the past year and give you a preview of where we are going in the future. I am so proud that Federation, while pivoting to respond to the pandemic, was also able to continue its work of our strategic initiatives.
Last year, Jewish Federation:
- successfully launched and has nearly completed a leadership development program for top agency leadership
- helped local organizations apply for and receive $500,000 in security grants
- secured new planned giving commitments to ensure our community’s future
- embarked on a new model of collaboration, joining with The J - Jewish Community Center on a new Jewish Experiences partnership to enhance community-wide engagement
- took ownership of the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Looking to the future, we have facilitated a community scenario planning process that will help our Jewish organizations identify important contingencies and make strategic decisions while remaining nimble and shifting gears as needed. We will use this process to engage in discussions about the community as a whole so that we can work together to meet any challenges that come our way.
This year, Federation is sponsoring a comprehensive study of our Jewish community. Although we initially postponed the study due to the pandemic, I am pleased to report to you that preparations are currently underway, and the study will launch in April. This is the first comprehensive study of our community in 35 years and will give us an understanding of our community that will help us and our institutions plan strategically for the future. So if you are asked to participate, please do!
I want to thank Federation leadership and all of our community partners for making this year a great success, even in the face of a pandemic. And I want to thank all of you for being here, together. This is your community. It may look different today than it did last year, and it will look different next year. As long as we are here, together, we will successfully make this community the best it can be.