For not the first time in my sixteen year career within the Jewish nonprofit sector, I have recently been witness to a once vital and vibrant Jewish communal institution on the verge of closing its doors. While the ensuing communal outcry is heartwarming – it is not only too little too late, but vastly upsetting as well. As I see the blame game going round I am flabbergasted by the anger, naiveté, and misinformation spreading. Is the close of a community institution really one person’s fault? Is it due to one catastrophic event? Or is it due to a series of missed opportunities, apathy, and false expectations?
Upon returning to the US after five years living and working in Israel, I am shocked and dismayed by the state of affairs within the Jewish community. We all know that the economic situation here has hit the community hard. Its effects are both far reaching and frighteningly close to home.
As a fundraiser in the Jewish communal world for almost 15 years I have never previously encountered the challenges that now plague the non-profit world. Every phone call I make, every community I approach, the response is always the same “Now is not a good time. We are struggling to support our school and synagogue.” Across the board I find that while people believe strongly in the organizations they have always supported in the past, they are struggling to keep their children in Jewish schools, participating in the scholarship programs of their schools to keep their friends and neighbors children in school, and participating in their community assistance programs.