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East Valley task force offers plan

8 steps outlined to bring community together

A task force of East Valley Jewish community leaders convened by the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix made eight easily implemented recommendations for building engagement there and increasing the area’s engagement with the rest of the Valley’s Jewish community.

The East Valley task force, chaired by Sally Oscherwitz, a former president of Temple Emanuel of Tempe and a current federation board member, included Rabbis Dean Shapiro of Emanuel, Kenneth Leitner of  Temple Beth Sholom, and Mendy Deitsch of Chabad of the East Valley, as well as Steve Tepper, executive director of the East Valley JCC.

“We established it soon after the May 2013 East Valley Jewish Community Building Initiative that Marc Krell had put together,” Oscherwitz said. (At the time, Krell was religious school director and community program coordinator of Temple Beth Sholom.) About 60 people participated in that event, including representatives from the Jewish Community Association (which has since revived the Jewish Federation name) such as Stuart Wachs, president and CEO, and Lisa Kaplan, director of planning and organization relations.

“They saw the huge, huge need, not only of the people who were there representing the East Valley organizations, but the huge need and want of the East Valley,” Oscherwitz said. After the results of the brainstorming sessions held at that event were compiled, the JCA set about convening the task force, which began to meet in the fall of 2013, she said.

The task force wrapped up its work in January 2015 and submitted its eight recommendations to the Jewish Federation’s board on April 14. They include:

1. Open a federation office at the East Valley JCC.

2. Revive the East Valley Leadership Council – a monthly meeting that would bring together the East Valley’s rabbis and other Jewish professional leaders with Wachs “to collaborate, cooperate and work on capacity building and other East Valley and federation needs at the executive level.”

3. Assist with communication and marketing of East Valley events.

4. Submit a monthly article to East Valley synagogues and organizations for their newsletters.

5. Encourage strategic and program partners to offer more services to the East Valley.

6. Use transportation resources offered by the EVJCC to encourage East Valley residents to attend federation programs.

7. Hold the East Valley Expo every other year.

8. Promote community programming by and for East Valley organizations.

“It’s not going to take us a long time to implement [the recommendations,]” said Kaplan, who was the federation professional on the task force. “It may take a long time for it to trickle down and for people to feel the difference. ... [but] hopefully by just being a presence there and continuing to support programming in the East Valley, we will be making the difference that we want to see.”

She said that most of the recommendations would be implemented in the fall, when programs that are now winding down for summer start up again.

Rabbi Shapiro called the East Valley federation office “a really important thing that not only signals the federation’s commitment to this, really, large area of metropolitan Phoenix,” but also signals its role as a convener that can “bring folks together in a way that is harder to do as individual agencies and organizations.”

The East Valley JCC also figures importantly in the recommendations. Oscherwitz called Tepper’s offer of office space for the federation “gracious and generous.”

“The idea of using the East Valley JCC as hosts for a number of these activities  [such as family movie nights] really came from Rabbi Shapiro and Rabbi Deitsch. They saw that as an important way to bring in and welcome people into our community and hopefully help them find other ways to become involved Jewishly,” Tepper said. He added that the organization is ecstatic to be able to provide its bus for transportation to federation events.

“The federation, and through it the community, has gained from the improved and expanded relationships,” Wachs said. “Ultimately, the federation is about broadening engagement and providing the opportunities and resources to help make it happen. Through this outreach, we have already gained some volunteers, have some East Valley parlor meetings planned and more to come.  Ultimately as we all get more engaged as a total community, it will strengthen our Phoenix Jewish community.”

“There is a lot that the East Valley doesn’t know about all of the organizations that the federation helps to fund, and there’s a lot that the organizations that the federation helps to fund don’t know about the East Valley,” Oscherwitz said. “It’s important that we have one community. This is all about inclusion. It’s not about going in one direction, not about the federation going to the East Valley, it’s about bringing together the different parts of the Valley. We’re one community.”