The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh officials announced that the umbrella organization will change its funding focus to “give more money to community priorities, emphasizing collaboration and focusing on impact measurement.”
The move reflects Federation’s desire to promote “collaboration and innovation” within the community, according to Adam Hertzman, the Federation’s director of marketing.
“There is so much potential in our community for organizations to work together, and we heard during our strategic planning process that what our stakeholders want most — and that includes Jewish agencies and synagogues — is for the Federation to help foster that collaboration,” he said.
After months of research, Federation unveiled a three-year strategic plan in September 2021.
During its annual meeting, Federation CEO and President Jeffrey Finkelstein said the plan, which was created by various stakeholders, includes a new mission of cultivating resources, connecting people and collaborating across the community to “live and fulfill Jewish values.”
As articulated in the new mission, Federation’s updated allocation process will strengthen communal growth, Hertzman said.
“As part of elevating our central role in bringing community partners together to solve complex problems, we heard from stakeholders that we also needed more money available to make meaningful change over time,” Finkelstein said. “Expanding these financial resources also needs to include tracking progress on community priorities through a more data-driven approach.”
Hertzman said a recommitment to reviewing metrics will help the Federation identify and support various community segments: “If the priority is helping people in need, we should be able to define whether we helped people, how much we helped them and did it have an impact over the long term.”
As part of the changes, Federation's board chair David Sufrin said he hopes to see the community’s Jewish agencies and synagogues collaborate. Measuring their success, Sufrin continued, “will be a key part of making progress on our community priorities.”
Changes to the funding process will begin during Federation’s 2023-2024 fiscal year and affect 2024-2025 allocations, according to Hertzman.
Along with Federation staff, volunteers and professionals representing Federation’s primary Jewish agencies will offer “input into what the first community priorities will be,” he said.
Hertzman cited the community’s three Jewish day schools, and affordability, as an example of what could be addressed as a community priority.
“We don’t have Jewish day schools because we think that the Jewish day schools themselves are a fundamental Jewish value. We have Jewish day schools because we think Jewish learning and Jewish education is a fundamental Jewish value,” he said. “The community priority isn’t necessarily to make day schools affordable. The community priority might be to improve Jewish education. It might be to engage more kids in Jewish life and Jewish learning. So is day school affordability a part of that? Perhaps, but the priority is more fundamental.”
At the core of identifying community priorities is a desire to recognize the importance of Federation’s eight main beneficiary agencies, which will now be called “core partners,” Finkelstein explained.
Those eight agencies are: the Jewish Association on Aging; the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh; Jewish Family and Community Services; Jewish Residential Services; Hillel-Jewish University Center; Community Day School; Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh; and Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh.
Along with its work with the Jewish Agency for Israel and JDC in Israel and overseas communities, Finkelstein said the Federation is eager to support organizations within greater Pittsburgh.
“I’m excited for the Federation to take a role at the forefront of strengthening Jewish life, supporting those in need in our community, and building a safer, more inclusive Pittsburgh,” he said.
The “ultimate takeaway,” Hertzman said, “is that there are opportunities to collaborate and make real progress on community priorities. Our hope is that this plan will contribute to making progress.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.