My Birthday List (and moving mountains)

It's my birthday tomorrow. I’m way older, and (presumably) way wiser, than when I last wrote my Birthday List. Here’s what I’ve learned this past year…

1. We can’t sit back and proclaim to be “change agents” just because we like the idea of change. We actually have to accept change, and prepare to be the agents of that change. That’s an intimidating proposition. But we can do it.

2. Change means accepting failure as part of the process. When I was in Israel the other week, I learned that 90 percent of Israeli start-ups fail.* Trial, error, occasional failure are all part of the process. We’re not going to fail in everything we do – but we have to be prepared for it when we take risks.

3. Supporting Israel is the best way to build up Jewish community and identity here in GMW. And supporting Jewish community and identity here in GMW is the best way to support Israel.

4. Missions. It’s all about missions. Want to change someone’s life, identity, connection to the community? Send them on a Jewish Federation mission to Israel.

5. Celebrate what we achieve, not how little we spend. We’re not a “not-for-profit” organization. We’re a “mission-driven” organization.

6. A Jewish Federation doesn’t exist to raise money. It exists to raise community – to care for those in need, to build community and leadership, and to save the world. One person at a time. And when it does raise money, it doesn’t raise money to give it away. It raises money to have the best possible impact, to reflect the values and priorities of the community.

7. But, you know, we still have to raise money. Not because money is the heart of what we do. But because fundraising allows us to move mountains.**

8. Great leaders aren’t just dreamers. They work hard to become successful. We’re blessed to have visionary lay and professional leaders who work hard in this community.

9. It’s all about storytelling. You have to show. You can’t just tell. Touching the Wall in Jerusalem after a rainstorm, tasting the challah at our challah bake, smelling the beauty of the nighttime air in the Negev, singing songs with Shoah (Holocaust survivors) at our Café Europa, hearing the stories of young people returning from our Birthright Israel, or reading our PJ Library book … that’s how you show.

10. Great Jewish leadership and philanthropy in our community is cumulative, not exclusive. If you do three or four things in the community, you’ll probably do four or five. If you only do one, as my Grandpa would say, then you’re not going to be emptying the ocean with that spoon.

* And not just in Israel, for that matter.

** And not moving the mountain that Microsoft asks about, which would take 8,000 bulldozers, 8,000 dump trucks, 1,000 cargo jets, about 40,000 people, and about 33 years. But even those kinds of mountains are moveable too.


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