At 75 years young, Jewish Federation tacks onto new course
By Donald H. Harrison
SAN DIEGO—The umbrella agency of San Diego’s Jewish community celebrated its 75th anniversary with a new name, new logo, new board chairperson and a newly-defined six-part mission.
All this became clear Thursday evening, June 10, when the agency formerly known as the United Jewish Federation announced its board had changed its name to the Jewish Federation of San Diego County and had redesigned its logo to reflect this change.
After the new board chair Jan Tuttleman and other board members were installed by Congregation Beth El Rabbi Philip Graubart, who serves as this year’s president of the San Diego Rabbinical Association, and after outgoing board chair Andrea Oster and other lay leadership were recognized with various awards, Steve Morris, the Jewish Federation’s president and CEO, told of the symbolic and substantive changes the organization has decided to make.
Morris said the new logo “places us clearly in sync with the brand and logo that the Jewish Federations of North America, our national system, has adopted and will help articulate our role as part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness, connect communities and raise financial resources to support Jewish life.”
He added that “the name change is an opportunity to launch a new era of coordination of planning and practice in our community in the pursuit of our mission.”
The Jewish Federation’s chief executive avoided the podium in front of the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre of the Lawrence Family JCC, and instead walked back and forth in front of theatre with a slide clicker in his hand. “Our goal is to go beyond philanthropy and engage the community in all aspects of Jewish life,” he said.
He enumerated six conceptual areas in which the Jewish Federation plans to be active: 1) Jewish Philanthropy; 2) Israel and Overseas Jewry; 3) Community Engagement and Leadership Development; 4) Community Planning and Innovation; 5) Community Finance and Administration, and 6)Jewish Community Relations.
These six overlapping “centers of excellence,” Morris said, will “allow us to be a partner in Jewish giving, optimize planning for the future, connect Jews in San Diego to Israel and all of the worldwide Jewish community, connect Jews in San Diego to each other, and provide a voice for the Jewish community in the public sphere.”
Jewish Philanthropy—In the last two decades, “Federation and its donors have provided over $180 million of support for Jewish causes,” Morris said. “”But during that time, the number of individuals supporting Federation has declined by 50 percent.
He said Federation needs to preserve “the strength of the traditional annual campaign while attracting new donors through new donor engagement.” The latter will require “new opportunities to address the needs of younger generations of donors.” Additionally, said Morris, “partnering with the San Diego Jewish Community Foundation and other local and global partners” will help “assure that donors have the highest quality team, resources and opportunities possible.”
Israel and Overseas Center–The Jewish Federation currently operates an Israel Center which encourages Jewish group travel to Israel, often in conjunction with trips to Jewish communities in other parts of the world. Morris said to this function Federation plans to find ways to “allow San Diegans to actualize their support of Israel in new and increasingly more effective ways.” In addition to advocating for Israel and Jewish communities around the world, the center “will identify specific funding opportunities for our donors and will continue to make travel to Israel, as well as education, cornerstones.”
Community Engagement and Leadership – Morris said this initiative will focus on promoting volunteerism, connecting Jewish community institutions with young adults, developing future leadership and “partnering with other community institutions to create and implement a community leadership development strategy.”
Community Planning & Innovation—Comprehensive community planning will “help our communal institutions and organizations understand, predict and plan for the Jewish community’s needs and develop plans to strategically meet those needs,” Morris said.
Community Finance & Administration—Working with San Diego State University, the Jewish Federation plans to utilize students in master’s of business administration (MBA) programs to help Jewish community institutions such as synagogues, agencies, and volunteer associations, professionalize their approaches to finance, human relations, information technologies, purchasing, and facilities management.
Jewish Community Relations Council – This organization will utilize “a consensus based approach to advance the Jewish community’s goals,” Morris said. It will serve as coordinator of the Jewish Federation’s public affairs agenda; “encourage ties between the Jewish community and other ethnic groups/ religions”; serve as a “Jewish voice and advocate in the media and government;” and be an “organizer and convener of Jewish community-wide events.”
Both the outgoing and incoming board chairs –Andrea Oster and Jan Tuttleman—also spoke at the well attended meeting, at which the normal theatre-style seating of the Garfield Theatre was replaced by tables permitting some snacking during the proceedings emceed by theatre critic Pat Launer.
Oster told the assembled guests that over her two-year-term, Federation had responded to the national economic crisis by cutting its staff by one third and bringing in as executive director Steve Morris. The new chief executive officer, she said, “is a great fit for San Diego and is leading our innovative, exciting and inspiring transformation process. ‘Business as usual’ is not an option.”
Furthemore, she said, Dave Sigal, the new chief financial officer, helped Morris to ensure that “the federation is operating at peak efficiency.”
The Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation created a Joint Economic Crisis Relief Fund which collaborated to assess the community’s needs due to the economic downturn, and design a plan and fundraise “to help those Jews with the greatest needs.” Oster said. “Together we raised almost $1 million… for economic crisis relief programs, scholarships and additions to rabbi’ discretionary funds.”
In addition to Federation’s annual campaign, Oster reported, $927,000 has been raised toward the $1.3 million goal “to build a safe, bomb-resistant arts center on the campus of the educational village in our sister city, Sha’ar Hanegev.”
Sha’ar Hanegev lies along Israel’s border with Gaza in the northern Negev Desert. The center will be in an educational complex that includes the municipality’s elementary and high schools and which adjoins the Sapir College campus in Sderot.
Oster presented presidential awards on Gary Kornfeld,a board member who helped with the administration of the Federation during its search for an executive, and to Betty Byrnes, a longtime community activist, who spearheaded the “On the Go” program to provide transportation services to Jewish senior citizens.
Before Tuttleman came to the podium, Jessica Effress, a past recipient of Federation’s Pauline and Stanley Foster Young Leadership Award, also presented awards to this year’s recipients: Danielle Shulman, Robert Fink, and her husband Rich Effress.
Tuttleman was touchingly introduced by her husband Craig Lambert, who heads up the senior services division of Jewish Family Service, and by her daughter, Emma, a graduating student at San Diego Jewish Academy who has been active in the Hand Up pantry program through which students collect, store, and distribute food to needy families in the county. Lambert told of Tuttleman’s constantly active involvement in the Jewish community—regardless of where in the world they might go—and daughter Emma told of how her own extensive Jewish community involvement was modeled after her mother’s.
Trained as a scientific researcher, with a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Pennsylvania, Tuttleman has more recently turned her attention to business, earning an MBA at the Rady School of Business at UCSD. She has served as the founding chair of the San Diego Women’s Foundation and a co-founder of the Women Give San Diego in addition to such responsibilities within the Jewish community as president of the women’s division of United Jewish Federation and vice president of the Jewish Community Foundation.
Tuttleman said her involvement in the Jewish community began when she enrolled her daughter Sophie in a Jewish kindergarten program and decided to take an Introduction to Judaism class herself. That prompted her to become involved with the Women’s Division of Federation and to travel to Israel the first time to learn about the works of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Joint Distribution Committee.
After her husband died, leaving her with two small children, Tuttleman said such members of the Jewish community as Barbara Sherman, Becky Newman and Mary Ann Scher offered comfort and support, further cementing her sense of belonging in the community.
Tuttleman said her administration will be “all about action,” stressing what is called the “be” campaign – ‘be connected, be together, believe, belong, be caring, be proud, be Jewish in San Diego.”
To those in and outside the room, Tuttleman said: “I encourage you to bring your energies and expertise to the Federation. Get involved by participating on a committee, attend our programs, travel on our missions, and help us to raise the needed funds to keep our community vibrant while we show Israel and Jews around the world that we care. Embrace this time as an opportunity to make your personal impact on our global Jewish community.”
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World