Albert Einstein once said “We learn from the past, live in the present and hope for the future”.
Hope for an exciting and vibrant future for our Jewish Community of Central Massachusetts fueled our Strategic Planning Committee which was convened b
y the Federation back in July 2005; but it was the hours of discussion, debate and analysis that allowed Ellen Berezin, Micah Chase, Peter Herman, Gary Wolf, Natalie Rudolph, Debbie Thomashow, Hal Rudnick, Howard Borer, Olga Yorish and UJC Consultant Andrew Paller to complete “Building Jewish Community Together: Report and Recommendations of the Strategic Planning Committee”.
The Strategic Planning process began with the Leadership Summit in December 2005, where key leaders from across the community including donors, agency and synagogue presidents, executive directors, educators and rabbis convened to create a Vision statement expressing what we hoped the community would look like in 2015. After all, how would we plan for the future without knowing where we wanted to end up? It was exciting to know that no matter where we were starting from, we all wanted a community which was welcoming, inclusive and active, where Jewish identity was strong and where there were varied opportunities for community members of all ages to meet their spiritual, cultural and educational needs. And all this within a desired landscape of strong institutions and establishment of a culture of collaboration and communication and mutual trust and respect among institutions and individuals of different backgrounds!
A series of Key Informant interviews would follow along with an on-line survey to help the Committee understand the needs and desires of the entire community followed by eight more months of meetings before the plan was presented to the Federation Board in September, 2006. Our UJC (now JFNA) consultant, Andy Paller, was instrumental in facilitating discussion and bringing to the table information on national Jewish demographic, philanthropic, educational, institutional, social, cultural and denominational trends which were so critical to our planning.
The final Strategic plan called for initiatives in four broad areas:
1) Building Community Through Collaboration and Outreach.
2) Building Our Financial Resources.
3) Effective Communication And Marketing.
4) Funding and Service Delivery Models
It has been nearly six years since the JFCM Board approved the Strategic Plan at their September 2006 meeting. The Plan was not placed on a shelf to collect dust but rather has been a blueprint for such initiatives as a revamping of the Allocations process, hiring of a part time Outreach Director, creation of the Cotton Leadership Program and creation of JewishCentral.org. The Plan also laid the framework for the creation of our Worcester Community Religious
School which will open this fall.
President, Dr. Natalie Rudolph has asked for a comprehensive review of the Plan in order to answer four basic questions: 1) What was completed according to Plan? 2) What was not completed according to Plan? 3) For each answer to #2, what should we continue to address as a Federation and as a Community? 4) What areas were not addressed in Plan but based on current environment should be?
In preparation for this work Natalie, Howard Borer and myself consulted with the Academic community including Professors Leonard Saxe at Brandeis, Shelly Tenenbaum at Clark and Arnold Dashefsky at University of Connecticut to determine if we needed a more sophisticated approach to understanding our community before engaging in further strategic planning. Assured that we were prepared and on the right track we have engaged Judy Horowitz, a consultant with Jewish Federation of North America to join us from her office in Atlanta on June 27th for a four hour session convening, once again, leaders from across our community as we did in 2005. We will review, debate, analyze, discuss and answer these four questions with an eye towards planning for the next 5 years.