The Giving Issue: Digging Deep To Help Those In Need

Giving comes in all forms, shapes and manners. It can be as random as reaching into one’s pocket when approached by a homeless individual on a street or being part of an organization that strives to make the planet a better place.

We now enter a holiday season when giving — or some would say giving back and paying forward — is on the minds of many people, through community service, by toil and sweat, or with a checkbook. Jmore salutes those individuals who find ways to contribute to our world, and we salute the power of giving.

These stories are mere examples of the tzedakah (righteous or charitable giving) and gemilut hasadim (acts of kindness) that take place right here in our midst. Let’s hope and pray that we can extend this spirit of generosity throughout the year and learn to be a bit kinder and more magnanimous toward each other. Therein lies the power of giving. — Jmore Staff

Throughout 2020, The Associated will celebrate its centennial with a host of programs, campaigns and activities, looking back and toward the future.

In January, The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore will launch a yearlong celebration of its centennial anniversary. Among the plans to mark this milestone will be a traveling exhibition chronicling the federation’s history and achievements; an array of events, podcasts, digital and social media offerings, publications and community gatherings tied to the 100th anniversary; and a special centennial-themed campaign to raise $200 million for special initiatives, targeted endowments and capital funding.

Jmore recently spoke with Marc B. Terrill, president of The Associated since 2003, about the centennial and what it means to Baltimore and international Jewry.

Jmore: How long have plans been in the works to mark the Centennial?

Terrill: Three years ago, our leadership started in earnest to really discuss how to mark this once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Those conversations took two different forms. One was how we mark the incredible history and accomplishments of The Associated and its network of agencies with an appropriate educational and celebration plan during calendar year 2020. In my opinion, the story cannot be told enough.

Collectively, we’ve made miracles happen. But oftentimes, we just move onto the next thing and don’t really take the time to celebrate the accomplishments, or by extension tell the story. There are incredible stories to be told of leadership, of activism, of resolve and resilience, and most importantly of community. Those stories are of providing early supports for new immigrants or to Holocaust survivors who made their way to Baltimore, or building a social service delivery system in Israel and throughout the Diaspora over many decades. Or participating in the mass movement of Jews from countries that may not have been so kind or hospitable to their Jewish citizens and moving them to destinations like Baltimore and Israel. Or reimagining the broad expanse of Jewish learning and experientials offered in tandem with synagogues and day schools and our agency network. Or responding to many of the current issues like anti-Semitism, security, risky behaviors, supports for vulnerable populations, Jewish identity-building and our evolving relationship with Israel.

The second issue related to the centennial is about being forward-thinking. Where we’ve been and where we’re going. The Visioning Process –as we called it — was intense, deliberative and dynamic to address challenges and opportunities, and to forecast the future. We wanted to think in a holistic way, about vibrancy, relevance and value proposition. We wanted to think about how we celebrate, evaluate, collaborate, ideate and activate. Our needs are evolving all the time, as are the market needs that the Jewish community is asking for in terms of their connection. The anticipated centennial year gave us an ‘on ramp’ for strategy development which will hopefully build for the next 100 years.

Has The Associated’s mission changed over the past century?

Our mission for 100 years has not changed. However, the challenges and opportunities, the strategies and tactics have, because the times have changed. In the ‘20s and ‘30s, it was all about immigrant and Holocaust survivor resettlement, about giving people opportunities for empowerment in a new and strange country and giving them communal supports. In the late ‘40s and ‘50s it was about nation-building in Israel, in the ‘60s it was about civil rights, and in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s it was about building institutions that were going to connect people to Jewish values right here in Baltimore. And that remains to this day

Our core mission and operating principle is we’re stronger together. That hasn’t changed in over 100 years. Individually, good work can happen. However, collectively, there is a multiplier effect of intelligence, experience, and human and financial resources which benefit the whole.

What makes The Associated different from other federations around the country?

We are the only large city federation that continues to operate in a way where there is centralization in fundraising and planning with our agencies. There is a singular campaign and an opportunity for looking at issues in a holistic way, as opposed to each agency doing their own fundraising and planning. We have a broad portfolio of 14 agencies locally, six operating programs, three overseas beneficiaries, so essentially when someone is supporting the annual campaign, they’re touching an expansive array of Jewish life, including taking care of vulnerable populations, support for social services and new immigrants, and in Israel for a whole array of things. Our planning function is an organizational feature which cannot be overstated. Planning in a holistic, integrated, broad-based manner yields thorough and comprehensive strategies and tactics.

Is a centennial a unique happening in the federation world?

There are some other communities that have had centennials. But I think the laudatory and incredible thing is we’ve had a continuous way of operation for 100 years, and we’re still adhering to our operating principles. We’re the only one, and we continue to have increased revenue and nationally, internationally recognized social service and Jewish engagement modalities and programs. Centrality and how we raise resources and how we plan is important, because if the agencies were all doing it for themselves, then the product would be somewhat myopic looking only at their own spheres of influence and mandate.

That said, we have increased demands and opportunities so there’s always more to do, and that’s another aspect of this centennial year. It’s about celebration and introspection, but also about thinking about what we need for the future and trying to address that in a very intentional and bold way.

Your goal with the centennial campaign is to raise $200 million, while conducting the annual campaign.

The annual campaign looks at the here and now. The centennial looks at the future.

The centennial campaign is an opportunity to influence the vibrancy and continuity of the Jewish community in Baltimore. Essentially, those dollars will go to a few areas of concentration: to provide for people in need; ensuring Jewish community with education and experientials and partnering with synagogues and day schools; growing connections to Israel; and Jewish values in action, by mobilizing volunteers and doing chesed [compassionate] work in depressed areas that need a hand and connecting people to our Jewish values and having them come back to the fact that we have an incredible tradition and heritage that brings value in how we approach the world.

[The centennial campaign] is for current use and startup, some risk capital to innovate, endowment for perennial community obligations and priorities, as well as pressing capital infrastructure needs for our system. Simply put, it’s for current use and endowment development.

What about events in 2020 celebrating the centennial?

Everything we do throughout our agency system is going to be linked in very intentional ways to our centennial year. There will be exciting, dynamic, exhilarating, thought-provoking opportunities for everybody in this community to connect and feel the energy of this organization celebrating its 100th year of continuous service and impact.

What else?

All of our websites will have centennial content. We’re commissioning histories of different areas of concentration about what The Associated and Baltimore have done. We’re going to have social media full of content, different celebrations where people can really connect and feel part and parcel of what this incredible community has accomplished.

As we go on, more things will be unveiled, and we intend to keep up the excitement and momentum throughout the year.

Where do you think The Associated will be in a century or two from now?

We are looking to continue the vibrancy of this community, so that takes intentional thinking and planning and some koach, strength. I’m hoping 200 years from now, there’s a community that still cares about our time-honored traditions and teachings, and wants to perpetuate them.

What is the value proposition of being connected to a Jewish community, and what does that mean? I think the reasons for being Jewish are compelling and bring value to how one approaches their life. It’s not about fear and guilt or tribalism. It’s about values and approaches and teachings, and how we can be better communities, people, and a better world.

How do synagogues fit into the landscape?

Our partnership with synagogues is dynamic and important. We need a strong synagogue community. Synagogues are a critical component of our present and future. We’re always looking for opportunities to collaborate and strengthen each other, and we have an Associated-synagogue commission that looks at ways to strengthen The Associated system and the amazing expanse of synagogues through the community.

What does this centennial mean for you personally as the federation’s president?

It’s an incredible honor. During my tenure, I’ve seen the community and organization grow in different ways. How we operate as a system while staying true to our values.

Our resilience makes me very proud of this community. During this period of time, we’ve endured challenging factors to say the least; the great recession, political divide, conflicting views about Israel, financial and physical insecurity, and other pressing factors. That said, we remain strong and vibrant.

Any quick thoughts about keys to success?

Participation. Building and sustaining a community cannot be spectator sport. Everybody needs to dedicate themselves in whatever way is meaningful to them in advancing the notion and vibrancy of the Baltimore Jewish community.

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