UJA-NNJ announces new path at meeting

UJA-NNJ announces new path at meeting

UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey is changing its direction.

Sheldon Ezor presents the Marge Bornstein Award for Outstanding Volunteerism to Leonard Cole at UJA-NJ’s annual meeting last week. Photo by Josh Lipowsky

The federation will shift its focus more to missions to Israel as a way of encouraging fund-raising, said Daniel Silna, who was elected to his third term as UJA-NNJ’s president at the group’s annual meeting June ‘0 at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake.

With an aging donor base, UJA-NNJ has been unable to gain the support of younger people, Silna said. The federation recognized the decreasing numbers two years ago, he said, and more missions are one way of pulling in new people.

"Most younger people are truly unaware of what federation does," Silna said. "We must find a way to explain what we do better."

Trips to Israel are a main component of helping the federation pull in new and younger donors, he said.

"The sense of pride established in Israel is overwhelming," said Silna, who was on the federation’s Jersey to Jerusalem mega mission in February.

UJA-NNJ has scheduled three missions to Israel in ‘008, including follow-ups to its men’s and women’s missions from ‘006, and for the first time it will hold a couples mission. A second Jersey to Jerusalem mission is scheduled for ‘009.

America has become accustomed to customization, said Howard Charish, UJA-NNJ’s executive vice president. He used the metaphor of ice cream, particularly of the Moobella company’s vending machine that allows users to select their own mix-in toppings. While Jews once reflexively gave to federations, a slew of new philanthropies — Jewish and non-Jewish — have made federation donations less of a clear choice.

"Federation is now seen by many as only one of many options, and often not as the central option," he said. "These conditions certainly demand change. The marketplace is calling out to us."

UJA-NNJ will adapt a new "dynamic model of fund-raising" that will allow it to customize to individual donors and evolve with them.

"It is a bold move to turn us into an idea factory so that we can become innovation champions," he said. "We will be even more obsessive about serving our donors and our agencies."

Through the past five years, UJA-NNJ has raised $97 million through its regular and emergency campaigns, while its endowment foundation reached $64 million. Last week, the first UJA-NNJ Birthright trip left with 40 students from area colleges, and Hillel, which operates under UJA-NNJ auspices at four area colleges, has expanded its participation to a combined 1,000 students, Charish reported.

UJA-NNJ’s move to involve donors in individual projects will allow it to become "more responsive, more transparent, more nimble, more dynamic," said Alan Scharfstein, who gave the campaign report. The new strategy also will let donors follow the projects they contribute to, something younger donors are looking for and which UJA-NNJ had not done well in the past, he said. "We have to take the actions necessary to take this federation and make it the center of Jewish philanthropy in northern New Jersey."

The federation passed three amendments to its bylaws at the meeting and voted in new officers to its board of trustees. One amendment allows the president to serve for three consecutive one-year terms as opposed to only two consecutive terms. As a result, Silna was unanimously voted in for his third term as UJA-NNJ’s president.

The night served as an awards presentation as well. Leonard Cole, a former president of the federation and a nationally known author and Jewish activist, received the Marge Bornstein Award for Outstanding Volunteerism, while Martha Cohen and Gregory Meisel received the Russell Berrie Young Leadership Award.

The focus of the night, however, remained on change.

The federation’s plans to move into its new building have been pushed back at least a month. Originally it had hoped to move from its River Edge headquarters by Labor Day, but now it is planning an October or early November move. Renovations in the new Paramus facility are on schedule to begin July 1, said Charish.

Following Charish’s call for customization, keynote speaker Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of the New York Jewish Week, urged the federation to adapt to changing trends and demographics. "The greatest threat to Jewish survival is boredom," he said.

Collections for this year’s annual campaign closed today. Exact figures would be released in July, Charish said.

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