NEW YORK - The Jewish federation system is set to kick off its annual General Assembly in New Orleans with an eye toward figuring out how to reach those not typically associated with Jewish federations.
As always, the annual gathering for the network of 157 Jewish federations and 400 affiliated fund-raising outposts, which raises about $3 billion per year, will feature dozens of sessions dedicated to helping federations better tell their stories and raise money. This year’s lineup includes a heavy dose of workshops focused on dealing with the recession, balancing domestic and international needs, and new modalities of partnerships and fund-raising vehicles.
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The conference also will feature such headline-grabbing speakers as US Vice President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni, the leader of Israel’s largest opposition party, Kadima.
But the Jewish Federations of North America, which organizes the GA, also is pitching this year’s conference as one dedicated to outreach to younger generations.
Approximately 600 college students affiliated with Hillel from 96
campuses have received subsidies to attend the conference, and much of
GA programming is designed to resonate with the younger attendees,
including sessions on social media and volunteerism, a Jewish
Federations spokesman said.
The organizations also worked with
the Jewish blog Jewlicious.com to invite a number of bloggers to cover
the GA in a project it is calling Bloggers Alley.
to younger people is part of a broader look to the future and where do
we go from here,” Jewish Federations spokesman Joe Berkofsky said.
federation network raises just under $1 billion per year for global and
domestic Jewish needs through its annual campaign and another $2
billion for endowments and special campaigns.
More than 3,000
federation officials and volunteers are expected in New Orleans for the
Nov. 7-9 meeting, which kicks off Friday with a charity golf tournament.
Netanyahu’s speech is expected to be among the GA highlights.
entire Jewish Federation movement is thrilled to have Prime Minister
Netanyahu joining us," said Jerry Silverman, the president and CEO of
the Jewish Federations of North America. "The prime minister will be
joining an array of inspiring world leaders who will help make this a
powerful and memorable GA."
The GA was scheduled to be held in
Orlando, Fla., but Jewish Federations officials abruptly switched to New
Orleans earlier this year after realizing, they said, that Orlando did
not have sufficient space for the gathering.
One major benefit of
the change in venue is that it will allow federations to showcase the
work of their network with the $28 million it raised for New Orleans
following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In addition, organizers have
structured the conference around a day of community service in New
Orleans, marking the first time a GA has included a mass volunteer
The project represents something of uncharted territory
for the federations in that they are working with several non-federation
organizations, including Repair the World, Avodah: The Jewish Service
Corps, American Jewish World Service and Jewish Funds for Justice, to
provide service opportunities for up to 1,500 GA attendees.
is part of a broader initiative to focus on Jewish service and to engage
younger Jews and more people in 'tikkun olam' [repair of the world] and
Jewish philanthropy,” Berkofsky told JTA. “It lets them get involved in
a form of Jewish philanthropy, a pathway and experience into Jewish
life. For some people, Jewish service is their means of Jewish
Lion of Judah, the division of the federation system
dedicated to encouraging women to make gifts of $5,000 or more in their
own names, will hold its conference Nov. 8-10 in conjunction with the
GA. Some 1,100 women are expected. That conference also will feature a
community-service project, as organizers raised $20,000 before the
conference to buy 5,000 books that they will distribute to 1,000 poor
children in New Orleans.
Unlike the GA, the biennial Lion of
Judah conference is a fund-raising event. When the International Lion of
Judah Conference took place in Jerusalem in 2008, the recession was
just starting and the women raised $18 million. This year they hope to
beat that number, Jewish Federations officials said.