Eric D. Fingerhut, president and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America, spoke about FedLab, the worldwide Jewish agenda of JFNA, and his private affiliations as a Jew, throughout a wide-ranging interview with the Cleveland Jewish Information.
Fingerhut, who was in Cleveland on Dec. 5 to talk on the Jewish Household Service Affiliation’s 144th annual assembly, has been with JFNA since August after serving in the identical place at Hillel Worldwide since August 2013,
Fingerhut is a Cleveland native, who grew up in College Heights and graduated from Cleveland Heights Excessive College in Cleveland Heights.
Previous to shifting to Washington, D.C., Fingerhut lived in Cleveland Heights, Mayfield Heights, Shaker Heights and College Heights and. He was a U.S. congressman and an Ohio senator. He additionally served because the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents in Columbus.
On the JFNA, Fingerhut presided over an intensive three-track workshop in Washington, D.C., referred to as FedLab from Nov. 10 to Nov. 12 for 900 invited volunteers and employees all through the federation system.
CJN: How did FedLab go?
Fingerhut: I couldn’t have been happier. You already know, I didn’t know the way folks would react. We tried one thing utterly completely different. As an alternative of going to a convention the place you go to a unique session each 45 minutes and also you hear dozens and dozens of audio system and politicians and well-known folks. We requested folks to spend three days in a deep dive with the identical couple hundred folks on one of many three actually crucial points that we’re dealing with. And other people did it. They leaned in. They got here to it with an open thoughts and a very good spirit. And I believe we achieved lots. I believe we achieved each creating new concepts and approaches to the problems that we mentioned, that we studied, however I believe we additionally achieved a way of mental pleasure, that there’s actually new concepts on the market, that we don’t should – it’s not a criticism to say that there should be new approaches.
In my remarks at FedLab, I quoted one in all my favourite Jewish teachings, Rav Kook, who was the chief, the primary rabbi of Ashkenazi Israel, (who) famously mentioned, “Make the previous new and the brand new holy,” and so I really feel like we had been modernizing, bringing issues ahead, however we had been additionally bringing holiness to all the brand new work.
CJN: How usually will FedLab happen?
Fingerhut: We don’t know but. We’re going to have a GA (Common Meeting) subsequent yr in Chicago. Everyone ought to come Oct. 25 to Oct. 27 (2020). The concept might be to see if we are able to take the training that we did with 900 folks, that pleasure, and convey it to five,000 folks. And clearly it gained’t be an identical. You’re not going to do one observe for 3 days, however see how we are able to convey that very same angle. After which I believe we’ll see. … Within the spirit of FedLab, we’re innovating.
CJN: The place do you reside?
Fingerhut: My household’s nonetheless in Washington. I’ve a spot in New York proper by the JFNA workplace. And we’ll be shifting to New York. It’s a course of. We now have two boys in highschool. It’s a course of.
CJN: The place do you belong to synagogue?
Fingerhut: We belong to a synagogue in Washington. We dwell in Shepherd Park, which is within the metropolis, close to the border of Silver Spring, however within the metropolis. We go to a beautiful synagogue referred to as Ohev Sholom, which is also referred to as the nationwide synagogue. So I grew up in Beth Am Group Temple, and I’m now on the nationwide synagogue. Rabbi (Shmuel) Herzfeld. It’s a beautiful booming, it’s as if Cleveland Heights you recognize had declined by way of Jewish inhabitants, folks moved out, however then abruptly, it got here again. So this had been a Jewish group after which within the ‘60s and ‘70s a lot of the households moved out to Potomac and Rockville and Silver Spring… all these locations. After which in the previous few years, the final decade actually, lots of younger households who had been dwelling downtown, engaged on the Hill, davening at one thing referred to as the D.C. Minyan, began having youngsters, they didn’t need to transfer all the way in which out to the suburbs, so that they repopulated this stunning space. And we like it. Really it’s very previous, regardless that it’s within the metropolis, it has the texture of a Cleveland Heights sort of, the older houses and plenty of bushes. We really feel prefer it’s the place we grew up. We like it.
CJN: Do you’ve got a synagogue in New York Metropolis?
Fingerhut: I don’t know but. That’s a part of the method of like determining the place in New York. … So, I’ve discovered a stunning synagogue that’s had so many alternative names – I don’t know what they name themselves now – down in Tribeca that I can go to for minyan and on the uncommon event after I’m there for Shabbos. However we’re nonetheless figuring that out.
CJN: How usually do you get to minyan?
Fingerhut: I attempt to go to minyan within the morning after I can. It’s definitely not daily. The excellent news is, the morning you need to make an effort. It’s not unusual for us to have a gaggle collectively for afternoon, for Mincha Maariv within the afternoon, however like I mentioned, I don’t get there daily, lots of touring, lots of early morning cellphone calls and such.
You already know the opposite factor that’s extraordinary concerning the federation system is the help of the worldwide Jewish agenda, the Israel Jewish agenda, so in fact we’re the biggest historic companions of The Jewish Company for Israel, of the JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee), serving to collectively present over $100 million a yr to Jewish Company, over $50 million a yr to JDC, which in fact the Jewish Company is liable for aliyah, and for the security of Jews around the globe, and the JDC liable for caring for Jews in want around the globe.
And you consider it, what a rare factor, proper? This Jewish group in North America offers these funds and infrequently are the individuals who sit on the boards and govern it. So we now have a really important – and I as CEO have a major – duty to work with these organizations to assist them with their mission. And so there’s plenty of journey, world journey, and likewise plenty of early morning cellphone calls, since Israel is seven hours forward and Europe is six hours forward, plenty of early morning cellphone calls.
So. like I mentioned, I don’t get there each morning, however after I can, I attempt to.
CJN: Did the FedLab mirror probably the most urgent points?
Fingerhut: We knew you couldn’t do the whole lot directly. So I don’t need to say that we ranked them and picked the highest three. However I believe by way of the necessity for federations to assume new or urgently, that was how we selected these three.
So definitely safety and anti-Semitism … is on everbody’s thoughts. Each federation is taking a look at what sort of further investments they should make in safety. Right here in Cleveland they elevated by a number of million dollars a yr, the investments in safety. So we all know that’s occurring. What can we do collectively? How will we assist with greatest practices requirements, requirements and many others. You already know we run one thing name the Safe Communities Community, which really Steve Hoffman (quick previous president of the Jewish Fderation of Cleveland) performed a giant position in creating when he was serving on this position. And that’s the kind of does the coaching and coordination of all our safety, runs the nationwide responsibility desk, so there’s an immediate sharing of knowledge. That was the straightforward name by way of the observe.
I actually really feel very strongly that the explanation for the Motion For Good observe was – and once more right here we’re at Jewish Household Service. It’s a $30 million company. It’s if I’m not mistaken receives the biggest single allocation of Federation funds yearly of any company from this extraordinary group. it’s the security internet. And I believe that’s, sadly, usually missed … the position that federations are enjoying in guaranteeing a social service security internet for our group. And it’s generally tougher to make the case for it.
Thank G-d lots of our households don’t want this, so that they don’t know, they haven’t used the service, they don’t realize it. They could not totally perceive how a company like this works. We do get authorities funds, Medicare, Medicaid and many others., however the philanthropy is the crucial factor that gives the service. I assumed it will be good to convey collectively the federation consultants from across the nation who do this sort of work to share greatest practices and the way will we inform our story, and likewise what are we lacking?
As I mentioned, JFSA isn’t the identical because it was 50 years in the past. There’s substance abuse points, there’s psychological well being points, there’s plenty of points that communities are tackling. In order that felt like an pressing precedence to me.
After which additionally the broad subject of our engagement of our Jewish group. So we’re so closely invested. Earlier once we had been on digital camera, I spoke about Hillel and Moishe Home and day faculties and camps and journeys of all types. Actually, apart from synagogue life, which is in fact an vital a part of Jewish life, you recognize federations are actually the only largest investor in all the areas of engagement in Jewish life.
And so, once more, just like social welfare, we actually are the anchors of the group in that means, and I don’t assume we essentially consider ourselves that means or leverage the belongings we now have. So I felt that these had been locations that had been locations that had been fruitful and ripe for actually good dialogue.
What we didn’t do, and we’ll do urgently, is the Israel and world abroad Jewish communit agenda.
We didn’t do that actually for 2 causes. One, our two main companions, as I discussed are The Jewish Company and JDC. … When our predecessors designed this technique, they didn’t even consider them as separate organizations, proper? They considered Federations and our companions, they considered it as a coherent system, the place we increase cash domestically. we carry out our native wants and we make investments abroad in Israel and the organizations that do this for us is the Jewish Company and JDC.
Each of them really underwent some important transition.
The Jewish Company has a brand new chief, “Bougie” Herzog, Isaac Herzog, the previous minority chief of the Knesset, turned a couple of yr in the past, they name it the chairman of the manager, and there you’ve got a brand new CEO Amira Aharonovich, who’s been on the job for about 9 months. They usually simply, simply had been finishing a strategic plan. So it felt like we must always give that course of a bit of bit extra likelihood earlier than we delve deeply into it.
And JDC it’s possible you’ll know is in a transition course of they haven’t but accomplished. they’ve a seek for a brand new CEO approaching board, coming on-line. And so it simply felt like, let’s give attention to these three points, largely home proper from time to time we’ll do an identical good job on the Israel, abroad points.