The Jewish Federation of Monmouth County has launched a broad-based effort to increase awareness about how it improves the lives of Jews locally and internationally.
The effort is highlighted by a reorganization of federation leadership — including the newly created positions of vice presidents of outreach and strategic planning — distributing copies of New Jersey Jewish News to 6,000 new readers, and creating affinity groups for business leaders and professionals.
“We are trying to engage people, and we think the newspaper is one of the best avenues for doing that,” said federation executive director Howard Gases. “We have a wonderful Jewish community, but all too often people don’t realize the agencies and organizations that they benefit from are supported by federation. People don’t see all the work federation does.”
Federation president Stuart Abraham said efforts already instituted by federation, such as establishing a satellite office in Manalapan, have reaped dividends.
“We had an increase of donors in the western part of the county,” he said.
The federation’s message — that its priority is “creating, building, growing, and sustaining Jewish community” — is a theme he believes will resonate among Jews.
“We fund programs within the county. We fund programs within the state. We fund programs nationally, and we fund them around the world — all intended to enhance the lives of Jewish people around the world,” Abraham said.
“We practice tikun olam [repairing the world] every day, and when people understand what we do, they will want to be part of it.”
The federation’s annual campaign allocates some $1 million annually for local schools, social service agencies, and Jewish identity programs, a range of humanitarian and infrastructure programs in Israel, and assistance efforts for Jews overseas.
Through the new positions, federation hopes to engage the community using a host of marketing strategies, ranging from traditional outlets to modern social media forums like Facebook and Twitter that are more relevant to young people.
“As our donor base expands we want to find out what people are looking for, the things that are of interest to them, and their areas of concern,” Abraham said.
‘Jews will respond’
Todd Katz of Ocean Township, who assumed his position at the federation’s annual meeting in June, is vice president of outreach. Arnold Gelfman of Wayside is the new vice president of strategic planning.
In addition to using new technologies, Katz said, he is looking to expand outreach to different segments of the community.
“We will reach out to communities by age,” he said. “We also have a large Israeli community in Monmouth County. We have a large Russian community and a large Sephardi community. We have a lot of people that spend a lot of time in New York or Florida. We want to tap into them as well as the next generation through leadership training.”
Katz said outreach would also be conducted at schools and synagogues through rabbis. Included would be publicizing Birthright Israel, which underwrites trips to Israel for young people and receives federation funding.
“We want them to see how federation affects them and the whole Jewish community,” Katz said.
The Monmouth County edition of NJJN is published in partnership with the federation. The extra copies are being mailed around the High Holy Days “when people are looking to say, ‘What can I do for the world?’ rather than ‘What has the world done for me?’” said Abraham.
Understanding how the world has changed as it moves into the 21st century will also be a focus in an effort to improve efficiency.
“Unfortunately, so far in the 21st century, the focus has been on the economic crisis, which has severely impacted what we do and the dollars we have available,” said Abraham. “We have reduced our staff and virtually all expenses at federation so we can allocate as in prior years. We’ve cut our physical plant and staff to the bone to keep the same level of funding to the community.
“But, there’s just so much we can cut, and this year we will have to increase the number of donors to keep that same level of funding.”
But Abraham believes once the community understands what federation does and what it faces, “Jews will respond — because that is what Jews do.”