Moving Forward by Looking Back

A Message from Arlene Miller, President & CEO

At the end of the year, it’s traditional to reflect on where you’ve been and think about where you’re going, so I thought I’d take a moment to do that here.

Together, in just one year, we have accomplished so much—deepening the impact of caring for our community, sharing our love for Jewish values and learning, and laying the groundwork to do even more for the future of our community and make our world a better place.

This year we made some real impact.

We shared more than 1,000 meals with local Holocaust survivors, we sent 180 community members to Israel (thanks to the Leon Ninburg Israel Legacy Fund), and we brought together ten local Jewish organizations to experience iEngage, one of the Hartman Institute’s Jewish values programs—and one of the most revered Jewish learning experiences in the world.

Our longstanding PJ Library program distributed its 100,000th book (see the video here), and we welcomed new initiatives like Honeymoon Israel to ensure we have Jewish engagement opportunities for everyone in our community. We were also the lead sponsor for the JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest (made possible by the generosity of the Leon Ninburg Israel Legacy Fund, the Albert Weissman and Rhoda Yvette Weissman Estate, and Edwin M. Posin).

Mental health, the cause of so many societal ills, is the current focus of our 13 Reasons Why Campaign, which—thanks to your generous support—has touched the lives of thousands of people. In addition, this year we provided grants totaling more than $1.17 million to 62 Jewish institutions—congregations, camps, day schools, and organizations—that touched tens of thousands more. And through our global partnerships, we are able to expand our reach to help Jewish communities in more than 70 countries, and to ensure that when Israel is at risk, we are there.

This year has not been without its sorrows: the murder of Blaze Bernstein, a promising young man in our community; the most brutal attack against Jews in American history at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; and the defacement of a local synagogue, Beth Jacob Congregation of Irvine. These are all reminders of our need to focus on security to ensure that Jewish life flourishes in Orange County.

This past year has also seen some changes for Jewish Federation & Family Services. We welcomed a strategic planning process that, along with the budget put forth by our Finance Committee and approved by our Board of Directors, resulted in some program and staff changes. The process was difficult, but necessary. Only by focusing on the areas where we can have the biggest impact with the dollars entrusted to us will we be able to do the most good.

We also asked the accounting firm of Grobstein Teeple LLP to review and upgrade our accounting and finance functions as we align our programming and grant-giving with our focus on our mission.

Looking forward to next year, we will launch the Orange County Jewish Community Study, which will further help us answer the questions about our Jewish community’s needs, desires, and vision for ourselves, now and for our future, and for our collective well-being. As a part of the Jewish community—whether you’re Jewish or not—you are important, and your opinion matters, so please participate in the study.

Thank you to all our donors for supporting our vision to LIVE, GIVE, and LEAD. As the year comes to a close, please continue to remember us in your end-of-year giving. Jewish life in Orange County is vibrant and growing stronger because of YOU! It’s your support that enables us to build a community where every voice is heard and every person counts.

Shabbat Shalom, and a very happy and healthy 2019!

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Arlene Miller