Board Chair Reflections: WTF!!!

Remember “OMG” (One More Gift)? Well, WTF!!!!!! With Federation’s journey to reinvent itself, we have confused our donors and the community, causing them to question our direction and continuing relevance in the community. So, WTF? Why The Federation?

Change is difficult. Change is necessary. I will be the first to admit that Federation has struggled to proffer a message that resonates with the community. That will change. But let’s start at the very beginning – like “Do Re Mi” (Sound of Music reference). 

There are two components to any organization: 1) Why they exist/what they stand for; and 2) How they operationalize their authentic truth. Let’s start with why. Why The Federation? This question is fair to ask and critical to answer. It is essential to communicate effectively. Take a second. What do you feel that the Federation’s role should be in the community? Not the “how,” but the “why?” I bet some of the phrases that come to mind are: build community; ensure a Jewish future; help Jews in need; support/connect with Israel; identify and address community needs; engage young Jews. Sound familiar? It should. These concepts have been driving Federations for more than 130 years. The “What/Why” has not changed. The “How” is what we need to address as society and paradigms of activism and philanthropy change. And changing they are.

So, WTF? Well,


Many organizations in the community care for Jews in need, and they do it very, very well. Others build community. Federation is the only one that does it all at the scale of the entire community. It is uniquely positioned to collaborate with other organizations to identify needs and provide solutions.

I do not seek to simplify the challenges Federation faces. They are substantial. They have to do with the “How.” If we can all agree on the “What/Why,” we have a solid foundation on which to proceed together as a community. 

Federation needs to communicate its message and its value better. We need to let people know that we connected more than 300 unaffiliated Jews to the Jewish community through PJ Library and our ambassador program (Build Community). We have to trumpet that Federation dollars have subsidized trips to Israel for more than 100 teens each year in San Diego through My Israel Journey, most of whom attend a Jewish day school (Build Community for the future). People have to understand that their generosity helps hundreds of young Jews attend Jewish camps (Build community for the future) and are working with high schoolers to build networks to engage in Jewish activities through Motiv (Build community for the future). And there is more, both here and around the world. More importantly, we are working with our community partners to identify unmet needs and address them, saving lives. Stay tuned on this one – it is VERY exciting.

But I ramble. The community needs Federation for the future of our Jewish community. I think we can all agree that caring for Jews and building community arouse the essence of our shared Jewish values. Identifying needs and connecting you to your passions around these ideals is what Federation strives to achieve – the “How.”


Come back for more on the “How.”


Add Comment

Thank you for your leadership on behalf of the Jewish community in San Diego. Regarding people being confused, authenticity—which you mentioned—appears to be part of the reason.

While there are many great people who have been involved in Federation over the years, many also have been mistreated and/or dissed. When an organization with such lofty stated principles does this over and over, it sends ripples of great doubt throughout the community.

Trust, once destroyed, is tough to rebuild. Even in the most challenging of situations there is no excuse for one Jewish person treating another horribly, while others know about it, witness it, and do little or nothing about it. Sounds too much like the darkest part of our history.