By Dara Kaufman / Executive Director
I recently mentioned to one of my small Federation colleagues that my daughter had started looking at colleges, and, as it turns out, one of them is her alma mater. This colleague shared detailed memories of her classes, professors, and food. I was astounded. I confessed that I had very few memories of my professors or classes. Most of my memories were focused on a crush, a few memorable (crazy) parties I attended, and the stress of my capstone project.
I hung up the phone feeling more than a little concerned about my memory. As I dwelled on that, it struck me that there was, in fact, something important that I remembered from one of my business management classes. I think it stuck with me because it involved a professor who taught everything through the lens of his beloved golf game, which at the time seemed so odd and unrelatable to me. It was the concept of the long game versus the short game.
For you non-golfers, golf skills fall into two distinct categories – the short game and the long game. The long game requires power and distance to get the golf ball close to the green in as few strokes as humanly possible. Meanwhile, the short game requires finesse and accuracy to get the golf ball close to and then in the hole. You’ll need to be great at both to be a great golfer.
As a 19-year-old, I knew nothing about golf. I confess that I still don’t – I think I even laughed when my professor presented the idea. He explained that long game vs. short game is a metaphor for having a long-term vision and goals while also responding to the more immediate needs of your business or organization. While you may emphasize one or the other at any given time, you must manage both aspects of your game to succeed.
I may have made fun at the time, but not only did I remember that concept, but I have also made it a central part of my strategy in every position I have ever held, including here at Federation.
Our community has faced so many challenges over the past few years. All of us, as individuals and as a community, have been playing the short game, responding to ever-changing immediate needs with urgency and passion.
But even as we rolled with the punches of the pandemic (another appropriate metaphor because we all feel a bit bruised by now, don’t we?), Federation has also been playing the long game – implementing key recommendations from our strategic plan, moving in the direction this community set forth, and working to make sure we have the capacity and resources to get there.
Two key goals identified in the Strategic Plan are to expand the Federation’s outreach and engagement and to strengthen the Federation’s organizational capacity.
As a first step, we redefined our existing program position and welcomed Rabbi Daveen Litwin as our new Director of Community Engagement and Programming in a full-time capacity. We are in the process of establishing a new committee to explore creative opportunities for people at all stages of their Jewish journey to build relationships and engage in Jewish life.
In addition, we expanded the Berkshire Jewish Voice editor and communications position to full-time to extend the Federation’s outreach through social media channels and e-communications. The amazing engagement we saw in June at our Jewish Community Day at High Lawn Farm resulted from that expanded outreach.
Finally, as we seek to welcome and engage the many newcomers to our region, the Federation hosted a wonderful Newish & Jewish in the Berkshires event to help people connect and learn more about our vibrant Jewish community. We hope to do more of these in the future, as it is vital that these new residents feel welcomed and find community for themselves and their families.
Another focus of the Strategic Plan was to identify the optimal method for supporting youth education in the congregational setting. This past spring, the Federation, under the leadership of board member Arlene Schiff, convened an education task force. The task force has been hard at work evaluating the current educational landscape, gathering input from local stakeholders, and reviewing national trends. The team will soon unveil a new sustainable funding mechanism for our local religious schools that encourages creativity and innovation.
And finally, in response to the strategic goal of strengthening our organization's overall culture of philanthropy, Federation board members recently participated in professional training to expand their capacity to support donors' identification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship. This is a critical component of our development plan and will let us fulfill our mission in the future.
The challenges of the pandemic continue to impact us. Still, we have emerged stronger and more determined than ever to continue the Federation’s vital work to support the vulnerable, empower young people, and create vibrant and meaningful Jewish life across the Berkshires, in Israel, and around the world.
And speaking of challenges, we are so excited to share the news about our $25,000 Tzedakah Challenge, as highlighted on this paper's front page. Renew your gift or make an extra gift through the holidays, and you will help Federation receive an additional $25,000 that will help us accomplish even more good things in the New Year. A special thank you to Ronald and Karen Rettner for their generosity in making this challenge possible.
As we approach the High Holidays, I am hopeful that whatever the future brings, Federation will be there - short game and long game.
On behalf of the Federation board and staff, I wish you a Happy New Year filled with the sweet blessings of family, community, good health, and prosperity. L’Shanah Tovah!
Dara Kaufman is the executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires.