A new young voice to lead federation campaign

A new young voice to lead federation campaign

Yishai Cohen hopes to reach out to a new generation of Jewish leaders. Photo courtesy United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks
Yishai Cohen hopes to reach out to a new generation of Jewish leaders. Photo courtesy United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks

Yishai Cohen has joined the staff of United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks as its full-time director of campaign development.

Cohen, 27, is confident his youth, creativity, and commitment to reaching out to all segments of the community will prove beneficial in growing the annual UJA campaign in tough economic times.

Like many federations around the country, Princeton Mercer Bucks leaders are trying to be as “creative and innovative as possible” in the face of recession, Cohen said.

The new state-of-the-art Jewish community campus that is slated to break ground this fall is a “fantastic asset” that will enable leaders at each agency to share resources and ideas.

“The campaign has suffered” the past two years, said Cohen, noting that the 2009 UJA campaign brought in $1.7 million, down from previous years. This in turn affects federation’s community allocations, with decreases to key beneficiary agencies.

“I hope to just be able to have staff time and staff resource time to be able to reach people,” said Cohen, who, in his new position, plans to hold more solicitations and presentations in the community.

Cohen, who hopes to cultivate younger leadership, plans to reach out to Jewish students at Princeton University, particularly its population of graduate/post-graduate students. With the help of federation volunteers and board members, the hosting of parlor meetings, and working with other community agencies, he hopes to be “most of all, just making very strong efforts…to reach as many more people as possible.”

Cohen’s new role represents a homecoming of sorts. Born in Israel, Cohen grew up in East Brunswick, where he attended Solomon Schechter Day School of the Raritan Valley and graduated from East Brunswick High School. After completing his bachelor’s degree from the University at Albany in New York, he and his wife Rachael moved to Israel. Upon returning to the United States, Yishai lived and worked in Albany, NY, serving as the coordinator of the Israel Resource Center at Jewish Educational Resources of New York.

In 2008, Cohen was one of eight students to receive the coveted FEREP (Federal Executive Recruitment and Education Program) scholarship by the Jewish Federations of North America, which provided a full scholarship for him to earn his master’s degree in public administration and nonprofit management; recipients agree to provide two years of employment at a Jewish federation.

While in graduate school, Cohen served as a campaign associate for the Jewish Federation of Broward County and a community development intern at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.

Cohen and his wife now live in Lawrenceville and have a three-year-old daughter, Eden.

Cohen, with a strong knowledge of federation as well as the ability to use social media tools, “brings a lot of innovation with a youthful exuberance,” said federation president Lisa Smukler of Princeton. “We really need to focus on increasing our campaign and I think he’s a great person to help us with that.

“I’m really looking forward to working with him.”

“Yishai comes to us with an incredible amount of energy and passion as well as experience in working with two other federations — and a lifetime of commitment to the Jewish community,” said federation executive director Andrew Frank. “He is full of ideas as already seen in the short time he’s been here,” and is “extraordinarily capable of working with both staff and lay leaders.”

Noting that Cohen has implemented a variety of new approaches to reaching out to both loyal and prospective donors in the community, he added, “we feel that his ability to think ‘out of the box’ and to organize and excite other people around those ideas will be a true asset to our efforts.”

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