Federation Raises $31.6M in 2017 Campaign

Tags: Federation, PR, Campaign

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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News.

By Amanda Koehn

Jewish Federation of Cleveland Board Chair Gary L. Gross, from left, Campaign Chair David F. Adler, and President Stephen H. Hoffman celebrate the 2017 Campaign for Jewish Needs.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland announced at its Campaign Closing Celebration Dec. 14 at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood that it raised $31,672,731 in the 2017 Campaign for Jewish Needs, exceeding last year’s total of $30,761,661.

Of the 10,021 donors, notably the Women’s Philanthropy group collected $3,971,591 from 3,779 women. The Young Leadership Division collected $540,806 and the high school/college division collected $21,783.

Gary L. Gross, board chair at the Federation said he was “blown away” by the number of people in the standing room crowd at the celebration. He also praised David F. Adler, the general campaign chair for 2017.

“David has motivated our community of volunteers and Federation professionals to make this campaign one of the very best we’ve ever had,” Gross said.

Adler also took the stage and told the audience about how the community continues to inspire him.

“By experiencing our donors, by experiencing our Federation staff, experiencing the work of our agencies, our schools, our international partners, experiencing how the campaign lifts the lives of others, I am truly experiencing Judaism,” Adler said.

The Campaign Closing Celebration was unique not just in that it raised the most money since the 2008 campaign, but it also was the first year where the event had food stations, live music and a party feel. The “Cleveland” food both had soft pretzels and beer from Great Lakes Brewery, and the “Israel” food station had falafel and pitas.

Adler said that the Federation decided to make the event more party-like to better celebrate the donors that contributed money and time.

“There is so much to be proud of and I'm so inspired by the hard work of the community, it just seems like this was the best way to bring it to a conclusion, with more of a party,” Adler said.

Adler, who was already writing thank-you letters to donors earlier in the week, said that while the monetary aspect of the campaign is most important, he also values the way the campaign events inspired the community to come together across a range of Jewish traditions, from Orthodox to secular. He said strategically, the campaign asked the question at each fundraising event, “What inspires you?” which led to conversations among community members about what causes they care most about and want to support.

Adler said the next step is that an allocations committee will conduct “an intensive evaluation of community and agency needs,” and then recommend to the Federation board of trustees allocation amounts.

"The committee meets with the leadership across the different agencies, refreshes themselves on the different missions and operations and in particular, really gets to understand the successes and challenges affecting the community,” Adler said.

Jordan Berkowitz, 33, of University Heights was awarded the Amb. Milton A. and Roslyn Z. Wolf Young Campaigner of the Year Award for his volunteer work as co-chair of the Super Sunday fundraiser, Young Leadership Division board member and campaigner.

Berkowitz, a member of Heights Jewish Center Synagogue in University Heights, said he grew up giving to and volunteering for the Federation, and has increasingly taken on more responsibility with fundraising as an adult, along with his wife, Rochie.

“It’s a huge honor, I’m extremely humbled just by the opportunity to give back to the community, especially to the Campaign for Jewish Needs,” Berkowitz said.

Berkowitz, who is Orthodox, said one of his priorities going forward is to further engage the Orthodox community in the Federation’s missions.

“We definitely think there could be growth in the Orthodox community as far as the awareness of what the Federation does and engagement as far as our lay leadership level,” Berkowitz said.

Campaigners also reflected on their efforts toward the campaign’s end result.

“It shows the true nature of community, and fortunately we are all in a position where we can give back and people feel good about it. If you don’t feel good about it, you don’t give,” said Scott Garson, a Shaker Heights resident and campaigner.

Joanna Sherman, a 17-year-old senior at Hawken School in Chester Township, said, “I went to the opening campaign and that energy was insane, but to be able to celebrate with all of these people, it’s incredible.” She is a co-chair for the high school/college division, whose excitement was visceral.

Despite being excited about the results, Adler said “success” of such a campaign is always relative to the need in the community and around the world.

“When it comes to the work of the Federation and its agencies and its partners helping people, there really isn't such a thing as enough is enough.”

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