I Want To Be Your Jewish Community Hero — But It Is Not Personal

If you come to this website, by now you must know that I have been nominated to be the Jewish Community Hero. It would be hard to miss, since when you come to the site a big pop us box asks you to VOTE in large orange letters. I hope that isn’t too annoying.

If you’re one of my 550 closest friends, you’ve been getting regular emails reminding you that you can vote for me every 12 hours. I hope that isn’t too annoying, either.

I’d like to explain why we’re taking the risk of being annoying. The Jewish Federations of North America sponsors this contest. The top twenty vote getters are evaluated by a panel of judges that picks one winner and four honorees. All five are recognized at the JFNA’s annual meeting, called the “General Assembly,” and all five receive grants for their organizations from the JFNA.

The General Assembly is the place where representatives of all of the local federations get together, along with most of the major Jewish family foundations. It is probably the most important Jewish communal gathering of the year. Especially if you are a non-profit looking for recognition and needing funding.

The cause of engaging interfaith families in Jewish life is terribly under-funded. A few years ago I calculated that the Jewish community gave less than one tenth of one percent of all of its communal spending to outreach to interfaith families – the total was less than $3 million for interfaith outreach against total spending of over $3 billion.

The federations at the time were responsible for spending close to $1 billion of that $3 billion. But very few local federations were spending anything for interfaith outreach – Boston and Atlanta being the notable exceptions.

If I can stay among the top 20 vote getters – I’m currently number 14 – and if the panel of judges takes an enlightened approach to what causes are important (in my opinion) and makes me one of the five honorees – then the cause of engaging interfaith families in Jewish life will be highlighted in front of the entire federation world. That kind of recognition could lead to funding from local federations – after all, InterfaithFamily.com serves people in every Jewish community – and help with the family foundations, too.

The grant from the JFNA would just be gravy – I don’t know how big the grants are, but frankly any amount would help.

I’m not looking for personal honor. I didn’t even seek to be nominated, a wonderful colleague at the Boston federation did that on her own. But being an honoree would be an important boost for our cause – so I want that very badly.

The first step is to be in the top 20 – and I figure that the higher I am in the list, the better my chances with the judges. I’d like to be in the top 10.

Right now at number 14 I have 2,120 votes. The person who is number 10 has 3,391 – so I have a long way to go to get into the top 10.

So please vote early – and vote often!

This post originally appeared on www.interfaithfamily.com and is reprinted with permission.