Jerry Silverman just gave his first stage of the federations address as the CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, delivering the messag eof hpe that many have attached simply to his hiring.
In our past interviews, Silverman has tried to assuage some of the more extreme in the system who think that he is going to be able to come into the system, hit the ground running, and cure all of the federations’ problems in one fell swoop. He’s gone as far as saying, “I’m not the Messiah.”
The federation system has some deep rooted problems – which no one involved will deny. If anything, though, Silverman is a harbinger of hope, and he tried to put forth that message Monday morning, just before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to speak.
Silverman and the federations must raise as much cash as possible for a system that saw its intake drop by at least $80 million last year.
No easy task for a system in dire need of some serious change. Silverman repeated a message that he took from a meeting with Les Wexner, the chairman of The Limited, and a major federation donor in Ohio: “What got us here wont get us there,” he sad. “We as a community need to work on what is going to get us there.”
That will take a new leadership model, Silverman said, one that he is confident the federation system can build if it works together as a cohesive unit.
“We have all the necessary expertise to make sure our global Jewish community will flourish and that we will be able to raise that bar. But we will have to stop making Shabbat individually and start celebrating Shabbat together,” he said. “We must work differently as a Jewish community to build a common language with younger Jewish adults so we can make kiddush together with them.”
We need to engage new consumers and a plethora of new investors who connect with our big ideas,” Silverman continued. “I am proud of our system. We have shown that if we can take a punch and still move forward, we can build a leadership model for the future.”
Silverman has been saying that there are five areas on which he would like the Jewish Federations to focus so that they can move forward: The collective, positioning the federations for the future, really thinking about lay and professional leadership and the overseas agenda, being preeminent and strategic in thinking of financial resource development, and enhancing our ability to influence public policy and increase the productivity of our Washington office.”
“We have many problems to solve, and we wont agree on any point,” he said. “But we have shown in the last year of challenge the ability to make real and unprecedented progress… If we work together effectively, ther eis no limit to what we can accomplish. After all anything is possible.”