Jewish Pittsburgh unveils process to gauge progress

Jewish Pittsburgh unveils process to gauge progress

The mechanism designed to gauge how well Jewish Pittsburgh is meeting the needs of its people, now and in the future, was finally rolled out last week.

Two years in the planning stage, the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Scorecard, got its introduction at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh annual meeting, with “Building Community” as its theme.

“This is a unique program, which no one else in the country is doing,” outgoing Federation Chair Lou Plung said.

The Scorecard was introduced just one day after American Jews received a stark report on the state of their community from the Pew Research Center. The Pew survey of U.S. Jews confirmed that the intermarriage rate continues to climb, that those couples are less likely to raise their kids Jewish, and that 32 percent of the youngest generation tracked — the so-called “Millenials” — say they have “no religion.”

“We’re losing our Jews,” Federation President and CEO Jeffrey Finkelstein warned in his address at the annual meeting.

“Community Building” is an appropriate theme for the Scorecard project, which is designed not only to help agencies and congregations perform better, but to assist individuals make informed decisions about their own Jewish expressions.

The key to the program is data, all kinds of which will be gathered on an ongoing basis and used to help gauge how the community is handling all aspects of community life.

Specifically, the Scorecard project — a cooperative effort of the Federation, agencies, and congregations — involves gathering data pertaining to nine broad-based areas, analyzing that data, posting it online where the community can see it, then using it to make decisions to improve each area.

For example, if the data showed Pittsburgh sent x number of kids to Israel last year, the process would analyze the impact of those trips, whether the number of kids sent was sufficient, and whether and how to increase the number.

The first so-called “scorecard” may be out by the end of the year. By itself, it may not say much, according to sources close to the project, but trends, issues and stories will become more apparent as data is continuously added in the coming months and years.

“It’s an iterative process; it will constantly be changing,” said Meryl Ainsman, who chairs the lay-professional committee that is shepherding the Scorecard project. “It’s never been done — certainly in any Jewish community … it’s never been done in this manner.”

How it works

The nine areas for which the Scorecard project will collect data are:

• Jewish learning for adults, teens and children;

• Jewish identity and peoplehood;

• Affiliation and participation;

• Seniors and their families;

• Poverty and emergency assistance;

• Leadership development;

• Collaboration and synergy;

• Revenue; and

• Cost management.

Each set of data will be published online as a “scorecard,” said Raimy Rubin, community scorecard manager at the Federation. The first wave, he said, is largely an inventory of things already being collected in the community,” he explained — for example, day school enrollment.

The next scorecard will be based on an Internet survey, which will be distributed as widely as possible throughout the community with the help of agencies, congregations, publications and word of mouth.

“We want to make this an accurate picture of the community,” Rubin said, “and the more people who [receive and respond to it] the more accurate it will be, so we’re going to do word of mouth and blast it out.

“Everyone is going to be given the opportunity to participate,” he added. “It wouldn’t be a 360 view of the community if we didn’t do that.”

All subsequent scorecards will pertain to issues or questions not previously addressed.

“The buzzword we keep using is iterative,” Rubin said. “As we go along, we’ll keep finding things we should be asking, so next time we’ll ask them.”

The data challenge

Ainsman predicted a “staggering” amount of data will be collected, and that’s the challenge the project faces.

“We need to figure out how we’re going to make make this chewable,” Ainsman said, “that it is not so overwhelming to people.”

To help that effort, the committee has hired Jack Ukeles of Ukeles Associates, Inc., which conducted the 2001-02 Community Survey of Jewish Pittsburgh, as its project consultant. Ukeles anticipates that each scorecard released will be “comprehensive,” addressing many of the nine subject areas, but packaged so that a particular set of findings, which tells the most interesting story, will be highlighted.  

“It should be a community building vehicle, because it’s going is to be transparent,” Ukeles said. “It’s going to be out there for everyone to see, and hopefully … seeing the [information] out there will get people excited about the question, what does it mean to be a growing Jewish community?”

While now acting more as an advisor, Ukeles said he was originally engaged in planning the project, working with the lay-professional committee to answer specific questions such as how frequently scorecards would come out (once a year with semiannual updates), would the data be released in print or online (online) and would congregations be included in the process (they are).

“They’re an important gateway in to Jewish life,” Ukeles said. “If synagogues aren’t flourishing, it’s hard to say the community is flourishing.”

Rubin said the data must be usable, not just by agencies and congregations, but by individuals as well.

“My goal from an organizational standpoint is whatever organization you’re in you’ll be able to take the information we present and make better decisions because of it,” Rubin said, “and as a member of the community, I can be able to look at the scorecard and say, I can do a better job of raising my kids to be Jewishly engaged.”

In other words, Rubin said, individuals need not wait for their organizations to use the data collected; they can use it right away.

Common vision

According to Ukeles, the Scorecard project had its beginnings in 2010 when the Federation and other agencies were working through a process to improve their governance.

They discovered they pretty much shared a common vision for themselves and the community, he said. “That vision was articulated as creating a ‘thriving, engaged, vibrant Jewish community.’ ”

To achieve that end, they hatched the idea of the Scorecard project, which Ukeles described as “a system of metrics and measurements for measuring progress toward the vision.”

While some federations around the country have scorecards for measuring their own effectiveness, Ukeles said Jewish Pittsburgh is taking the idea to a new level.

“As near as I can tell, there is no other community in the United States  — a Jewish community — that has developed the scorecard,” he said. “There are federations that have one to look at how good a federation they are, but no Jewish community I know of has ever developed a system to measure how good a community they are.”

All data gathered through the Scorecard project will be accessible at

Rubin said the layout of the website is close to completion, but content won’t be loaded until the scorecard is ready to be published.

The Scorecard is a community project, not a Federation project, Ainsman noted.

“That’s one of the things that has to come out loud and clear. “In the project’s logo,” she said, “the federation is one of the cogs in the logo, but it’s just one of the cogs.”

She also noted that Scorecard is not a report card on the effectiveness of any agency or congregation.

“This is not to call out anyone; this not to cut anyone’s finding,” she said. “This is to evaluate how we as a community are performing in the areas I just talked about. The last thing we want is to put people on the defensive; we want people to embrace it.”

(Lee Chottiner can be reached at

read more: