Cracking the UJA-Federation Shell


Thousands of tweets. Hundreds of thousands of hits. Millions watching the video clips.

The earthquake in Haiti? No.

I know, it’s the new Apple iPad? Afraid not!

The story on the Times Square bomber? Not even warm!

Then what, for goodness’ sake?

Megan Fox’s thumb.

Megan Fox’s thumb? Stu, what are you talking about?

For those of you iconically and culturally challenged who are unaware of the biggest story to hit the wired world in years, I will fill you in. For the overwhelming number of you who know what I’m referring to, skip a paragraph.

Megan Fox, a 24-year-old movie actress (she was great in Transformers), has been dubbed one of the world’s sexiest women by many of the tabloids. (How do you achieve that title at the age of 24? Hm, my age must be showing; however, I digress.) She is, they claim, perfect in every way. Beautiful hair, toned physique, perky, and fun – the head cheerleader, if you will.

Well, as it turns out, Megan is not so perfect after all. Apparently, she has a less-than-perfect thumb. (You can’t make this stuff up – if you don’t believe me, go to Google or Bing and search for "Megan Fox thumb.") Some people think it is a bit nubby. Some think it looks manly. Yet others complain it seems stubby.

Me, I want to know what this world is coming to. I won’t even deal with the fact that when I was growing up, I would have known never to make fun of a physical difference. At that time, even the tabloids knew where to draw a line in the sand. Frankly, at first, I thought perhaps it had something to do with tikkun olam, repairing the world. Perhaps in our rush to repair the world, we were just going a bit too far by focusing on poor Megan’s thumb. After thinking about it for a New York minute, I realized that God couldn’t be so shallow as to see her thumb as falling into the category of something needing repair. (My apologizes to anyone who thinks that last statement was heretic or too flip in discussing the ruler of the universe.)

Nope! Nope! Nope!

I am confident that, as a nation, many of us have thankfully come to the conclusion that we need to appreciate even the thumb-size differences we bring to the table. Margaret Mead once said that if we ever hope to have a richer culture with contrasting values, we need to "weave a less-arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place." Today, however, I imagine she would wonder if our culture had any future hope of success, given that a less-than-perfect thumb could capture so much attention. Where, she might ask, is this nation heading?

Well, thanks for listening. What – I’m sorry, what did you ask? Oh, yeah. How does this tie into UJA-Federation of New York’s annual campaign?

The annual campaign is the largest peoplehood effort ever set forth by UJA-Federation. Through the portal of this campaign, more people enter the Jewish philanthropic world than through any other communal activity. The campaign emphasizes a diversity – thumbs and all – that allows our community to provide the platform for helping millions of people each year. Russians, Syrians, Sephardim, Iranians, and Ashkenazim; lawyers, financiers, entertainment executives; Long Islanders, city dwellers, Westchesterites; young people, old people, men, and women – and the list goes on. And it all comes together under our banner of caring for people in need, rescuing those in harm’s way, strengthening Jewish communities in New York, in Israel, and around the world – and occasionally just giving a big family (peoplehood)-style hug at just the right moment.

And you know what? Each of us has a strange-looking thumb. And in the next few weeks, some of those thumbs will help run 40 major trade and community fundraising events. Other strange-looking thumbs will place thousands of pledge cards on event tables. Other thumbs will call past donors, ask for support, or bring in pledges. Lots of thumbs will take attendance, answer phones, put together journals, show videos, write speeches, process gifts, and, occasionally over the next several weeks, wipe away a tear, rub a tired face, or give an assuring pat on the back to someone feeling the stress of raising almost a million dollars a day, as we do every year at this time.

Huh, what do you know? The world is about imperfect thumbs. Come to think of it, we really should have known all along. At the end of every journey, it’s all those imperfect thumbs that let us hitchhike our way through life together.

Stuart Tauber is senior vice president for financial resources development at UJA-Federation of New York.  A pop cultural enthusiast, Stu can be found on Twitter.



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