The Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix launched its 2015 annual campaign on Feb. 26 with the debut of FED Talks by three local leaders and visitor Gil Tamary at Temple Chai, drawing about 250 people to the program and dessert reception.

The local leaders – Jonny Basha, Barry Markson and Jared Hirschl – respectively highlighted engaging young Jews in the community, services for seniors and Israel advocacy, which the campaign will target as “core impact areas” this year.

Basha, 24, who works in the tech industry and is a resident of Moishe House Phoenix in Scottsdale, said that he wanted to shake things up a bit by talking about “YOLO Engagement.” (The initials YOLO stand for “you only live once,” he said.)

“It’s a unique way to engage with the millennial [generation] of today’s world,” he said. “I’m a millennial I guess, being 24. ... People in this demographic want to be engaged. They want to be connected to. They want something exciting and different.” In planning about 10 events a month at Moishe House for millennial Jewish professionals, he said that he has found events like ski trips generate the buzz and engagement. “Moishe House, its whole mentality is ‘get into the head of the young professional in a way in which he or she wants to be engaged.’ ”

Then, he talked about reaching the young people where they live – on their phones, and said that with Young Jewish Professionals, a federation NOWGen program, Moishe House has been able to plan “cool events” and analyze the engagement through social media analytics. As that engagement increases, the groups have found that donations increase, he said

Markson, a federation board member and chair of its Community Planning Commission, delivered a talk called, “It’s Our Turn.” He described his grandmother’s desire, after his grandfather died, to keep her own home rather than move in with one of her daughters. “My grandmother was way ahead of her time,” he said. 

Her desire to “age in place” matched the findings of the federation’s recent senior services study, in which local seniors expressed a preference for staying in their own homes and called for services to help them do so. He detailed three federation initiatives that come out of that: a database of senior services in the area available via phone call, transportation services and socialization activities.

He said that Jewish Family & Children’s Service does a great job with the Center for Senior Enrichment and that it would like to set up another senior center. “What’s holding us back? A little bit more money. ... It’s something that we can do today,” Markson said. 

Hirschl, president of Students Support Israel at Arizona State University, thanked the federation for its support of his group as he began his talk on “Israel Advocacy on Campus.” 

After talking about various anti-Israel efforts on college campuses across the U.S., he described a new strategy that SSI is using to battle groups like Students for Justice in Palestine. “It’s not our job to fight them. Let them preach their hate. It’s our job to show students why we love Israel in the first place. It’s our job to have them fall in love with Israel like I fell in love with Israel when I was on Birthright.” 

Tamary, the Washington bureau chief for Israel’s Channel 10 News, delivered a keynote speech full of anecdotes about Israeli leadership from Ben-Gurion to Netanyahu. Other speakers were Rachel Hoffer, one of the campaign’s Major Gifts co-chairs, who talked about “Power of the Federation”; Esther and Don Schon, the campaign co-chairs; Stuart Wachs, federation president and CEO; and Debbie Blynn, Temple Chai’s board president.

At the event, the federation distributed its 2014 annual report, which showed that the 2014 annual campaign raised $3 million.

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