OK, this was not your typical Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh annual meeting.
Typical annual meetings aren’t planned around the theme of an international flight to Israel.
Typical annual meetings don’t include federation staff members dressed as El Al flight attendants.
Typical annual meetings don’t end with a Rick Recht miniconcert.
But this isn’t your typical year either. The federation’s Sept. 21 annual meeting at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill, attended by nearly 400 people, kicked off a yearlong celebration of its centennial.
And the cornerstone of that celebration is the “Centennial Mega Mission” to Israel from June 19 to 28, 2012, which already has 140 people registered.
Yes, that was the reason for the El Al flight theme, which included a series of big screen videos on the federation’s history, activities and upcoming mission.
“This already is our largest community mission to Israel in at least the last 20 years,” federation President and CEO Jeffrey Finkelstein told the gathering in his address.
Outgoing federation chair William Rudolph, repeatedly referred to as “Captain Rudolph” in keeping with the flight theme, did bring the crowd back to business, noting the federation’s positive fundraising numbers over the past year:
• The annual campaign raised more than $12.8 million — an all-time high;
• The Jewish Community Foundation raised $14.4 million;
• The Jewish Healthcare Foundation provided its $900,000 block grant; and
• The Centennial Fund for the Jewish Future, only a 2-year-old program, has raised $16 million, well on the way to meeting its stated goal of $25 million.
Rudolph gave this fund particular attention during his address.
“This [fund] has the potential, with everyone’s help, to be transformational in our community,” he said.
Rudolph also noted that the fund’s three purposes — to advance Jewish education, camping and trips to Israel — can “assure the future of this community.”
In other business, the federation presented its Emanuel Spector Memorial Award and Doris and Leonard H. Rudolph Jewish Communal Professional Award to attorney H. Arnold Gefsky and Jewish Healthcare Foundation President and CEO Karen Wolk Feinstein, respectively.
In accepting his award, Gefsky, a longtime community activist, recalled when he was first recruited for the federation. At the time, he said if he got involved, he would want to know if the money was spent properly.
“The next thing I know I was on the allocations committee and the liaison to the JAA (Jewish Association on Aging), so I could find out for myself,” he said.
Feinstein, the only president and CEO the JHF has known in its 20-year history, noted the deep ties her family had to Montefiore Hospital, the sale of which led to the establishment of the JHF.
She said her great-great-aunt was among Montefiore’s founders, and she worked as a candy striper there.
In introducing Feinstein, Finkelstein added that JHF has contributed $70 million to the Jewish community under her administration.
Eileen Lane, who was named volunteer of the year, introduced a video of the 46 agency volunteers honored this year. Their names and pictures flew by on the screen like so many luggage tickets — again, in keeping with the theme.
“The video may have shown you the names and faces,” Lane said, “but it cannot begin to capture their hours of work.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)