At the annual Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly (or GA) this week, thousands of Jews from around the world will convene in Denver – a city with a 150-year heritage of Jewish giving and community. The GA – what we call the original Jewish social network – informs the Jewish communal agenda. One key issue we’ll be exploring has the potential to transform the way we work together to strengthen the Jewish People worldwide.

For decades, Jewish Federations have annually raised and distributed many hundreds of millions of dollars for global Jewish needs with our partners such as the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). These critical partnerships enable all of us to fulfill the collective responsibility of the Jewish People to rescue Jews in distress, care for Jews in need, enable our elderly to live in dignity, educate our children, support the State of Israel and build vibrant Jewish communities in more than 60 nations.

Through our work together, we have changed the course of world history and improved the lives of millions.

A key component of our success has been the ability of our leaders to determine the greatest needs of the Jewish world and use vision, strategy and imagination to address large-scale issues as a community. The world in general is changing rapidly, and so are the needs of the Jewish People. We face issues that are complex and costly at a time when our Jewish communities are more diverse, less cohesive and less interconnected. It is time for us to convene as a Jewish community to set priorities and determine how we can reinvigorate our collective action to tackle big issues facing the Jewish future. To this end, we plan to launch an initiative that brings together new thinkers, idea generators and our historic partners to engage in robust dialogue about how to prioritize and approach our 21st-century challenges.

We are in the midst of a period of tremendous innovation. New technology has greatly enhanced our ability to connect with and learn from one another. To keep pace with the advancements and the evolving challenges, we need to advance the way we analyze and debate the biggest challenges we face today as a Jewish people – from the challenges of social needs in North America and in Israel, to rekindling Jewish life in the former Soviet Union.

This forward-thinking process will be known as the Global Planning Table (GPT). JFNA’s Board of Trustees will discuss the GPT plan at this week’s GA in Denver. Through the GPT, our North American Jewish family will have a structure and process to confront new challenges, creatively allocate our collective resources and more strategically support one another to build community at home and around the world. The GPT will analyze the needs and opportunities of the Jewish People at home and around the world, determine our priorities, assess the real impact of the current and potential philanthropic endeavors and map our future.


But the GPT will achieve much more. By convening our wider community in innovative forums, we can educate and inspire a new generation of Jews about the incredible collective impact of the Jewish Federations on Jewish life worldwide. These dynamic forums will not only include Jewish Federation representatives, but our historic partners, JAFI and JDC, who with their deep experience, will play critical roles in this important dialogue. We will also look to engage others who can bring new thinking to bear on our collective action.

Our greatest strength in the Jewish Federation movement has been our willingness to envision a better world and our ability to work together as a global people to accomplish big goals. With our combined strength, ideas and action, I believe the GPT will generate new ideas, attract many more supporters, create important new connections, and enable us to act together strategically to address the challenges facing our global community.

No significant change comes easily. But in taking the bold steps needed, we honor those who shouldered this responsibility in the past and seek to pave the way for those who, in turn, will lead our people forward into the future.

The writer is chairwoman of the Jewish Federations of North America.

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