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D'Var Torah

Lee I. Sherman

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of being at the Kotel in Jerusalem for Kabbalat Shabbat. In the moments before the sun set, the plaza before the Kotel filled with people. On both the men's and women's sides, a number of minyanim were formed and the singing to welcome the Shabbat began. One particular large group of chairs in the back part of the plaza on the men's side sat in a circle awaiting its occupants. And then, a boisterous group of soldiers seated themselves in the chairs to begin their service. They were addressed by a senior officer, and then they began to sing and dance to welcome the Shabbat. Although there were many competing voices all around the plaza, this group created the most energy. Their enthusiasm attracted men and boys to share in their circle as they belted out "Am Yisrael Chai." No one could keep from joining the "ruach" they spread.

dvar 2.3.12 

In this week's parashah, B'shallah, the flight from Egypt begins. This Shabbat is known as "Shabbat Shira," the Shabbat of song. For it is this Shabbat that we read of the parting of the Sea of Reeds, the crossing of the Israelites, and the drowning of their Egyptian pursuers. And, just after this miraculous, magnificent, and horrific event, the Israelites in unison burst into song. It is a song of thanks and triumph. One can imagine the sheer joy and wonderment of the people who have just witnessed this miracle. On Shabbat morning, as we read this passage of Torah, the congregation will rise and join together in song, as if we too had just made a successful crossing of the Sea of Reeds.


What is it about music that can be so universal and transcend the generations? Certainly, at least in part, it is the raising of the spirit that we hear in the songs of the Israelites at the sea and of the IDF soldiers at the Kotel. Moreover, it is the unifying nature of song. The Children of Israel sang in unison; we rise in unison as a congregation; the masses at the Kotel sang as one; whether singer or listener, child or adult, we feel the spirit of music.


Have a festive Shabbat.  

AJFCA's 2012 Annual Conference - Houston Intercontinental Hotel - Houston, TX 

Leading with Vision: Strategizing for Excellence

We are looking forward to seeing you April 22nd-24th in Houston, TX for the 40th Annual AJFCA & IAJVS Conference.   


REGISTRATION IS OPEN. You can register via the following link, or visit the AJFCA website, Annual Conference, Register.  


Please visit Annual Conference on the AJFCA website for details about the Houston Intercontinental Hotel, where we'll be hosting the conference, travel and local attractions.


New this Year, AJFCA wants you to bring your staff, board and lay leaders to our exciting conference. We are offering a rebate to our member agencies of $200 for each full registration from their community over the 4th registered attendee. Please see the AJFCA website for details. _______________________________________________________________________________________________  

2012 Conference Awards

AJFCA and the Conference Awards Judges are thrilled to present the guidelines for the KOVOD, Distinguished Service, Leadership and TrailBlazer awards for this year's conference. This year's KOVOD Award categories, (which are listed below) are focused on bringing out best practices in programming among JFCS agencies through North America. We are eager to receive submissions and learn even more about the creative and innovative work you do within your agencies and for the communities you serve.  

  • Creative Use of Volunteers in Client Services
  • Effective Use of Social Media
  • JF&CS Collaborative Program (submitted by a member agency or agencies)
  • Best Practices in Connecting Judaism to Client Programming  

All award submissions are due on Friday, February 17th. If you have any questions of concerns please contact Megan.


Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization

AJFCA has joined 40 faith organizations in sending a letter to Congress in support of the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  This landmark legislation, first enacted in 1994, brings assistance to victims of domestic violence and supports violence prevention programs across the country.  Click here to read the text of the letter and please email Shelley Rood if you would like to be involved in efforts to reauthorize VAWA.

State of Violence in the Jewish Community

Despite difficult economic times, Jewish domestic violence organizations remain committed to preventing violence in their communities and meeting the needs of those affected by abuse. This data is part of Jewish Women International's  third annual survey, The State of Violence in the Jewish Community, which examines the successes of Jewish domestic violence organizations throughout the country and the many challenges they face.


According to the survey, 90% of respondents believe their community faces a gap in services, while 47% of respondents report that their funding has decreased in the past year alone. This survey could not be released at a more critical time: This month, as Congress starts drafting the budget for the next fiscal year and lawmakers begin to consider the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011.


Join JWI's advocacy network to learn more.  

February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month

February 2012 is the fourth annual Jewish Disability Awareness Month, presenting congregations and other Jewish community organizations with an opportunity to become truly welcoming. Together we can use this month to break down physical, communication, and attitudinal barriers, educate our communities on what accessibility and inclusion really mean, and reach out to Jews with disabilities. Please consult the Jewish Federation of North America's resource guide  and take action now by signing the Statement of Solidarity. Additional resources on the Union for Reform Judaism's Disabilities page can help congregations and organizations recognize Jewish Disability Awareness Month and makjdam 2012 logoe Jewish life cycle events more accessible.


Participate in Jewish Disability Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill - February 7th

We invite you to come to Washington, DC on February 7th for Jewish Disability Advocacy Day. AJFCA is cosponsoring this event, which is organized by The Jewish Federations of North America and the Religious Action Center. The day will begin with a briefing in the Capitol (10:00am-11:30am, room HC-8) that will feature Members of Congress and other notable figures discussing the future of Medicaid and how we can best serve the healthcare needs of people with disabilities.

The briefing will include the following speakers:

*    Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA, co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus)
*    Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI, co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus)
*    Judith Solomon, Vice President for Health Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
*    Liz Weintraub, Self Advocacy Specialist, Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Following the briefing, we will participate in advocacy meetings with Members of Congress and staff. If you would like to register for this day of advocacy, please do so by clicking here . Kindly contact Shelley Rood, AJFCA Washington Director so that she can make sure you are set up with the appropriate meetings.

Workplace Happiness and the Jewish Question  
Workplace Happiness and the Jewish Question, January 5, 2012, eJP,by Hal M. Lewis 

For the past several months, The Chronicle of Philanthropy has reported on a growing and troubling trend - the increasing unhappiness among nonprofit organizational employees. In two recent surveys of not-for-profit professionals seventy percent of respondents said that their jobs were either disappointing or only somewhat fulfilling. Fully 25% of those surveyed said they were considering looking for a job outside the nonprofit world.

ejp full logo 

The data on Jewish communal professionals are even more discouraging. Talented young Jews, even those with excellent Jewish educations and sensibilities, are opting for careers in the private sector. Those who have served Jewish organizations are burning out prematurely and opting to leave the field altogether. The resulting brain drain means that many of the best and the brightest in the Jewish world are either not chronicle philanthropylooking seriously at entering the field, or are exiting before ever having the chance to make their mark.


Read what other field experts have to say to learn more about career dissatisfaction and the so-called profit motive.  

Software to Support Program Evaluation  

Articles, conferences and books have been devoted to the concept and strategies behind evaluating the success of programs, but there's surprisingly little information available about how to fit data tracking and analysis software into such efforts. Becidealware logoause there's no single software specific to evaluating programs, different types of systems can help with the different parts of the evaluation process.


But what parts? And what software? To find out, Idealware talked to a number of nonprofit program evaluation experts to explore the types of systems that can aid with program evaluation, and how they might fit in to the overall process. Idealware learned evaluation requires more than just a software program, but the right software can help.


Click here to learn more about how to define your evaluation process, track constituent data and outcomes, track non-constituent data, and analyze and display measures.


New York City Schools will be honoring Respect for All Week from February 13-17, 2012. This initiatirespect for all weekve was started three years ago. Its focus is to combat bullying and harassment based on ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other characteristics.   


The Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services wrote in their January e-newsletter, "Why limit such an initiative to schools? What can we do as an agency to help promote these necessary values?" The New York City Council offers ideas on how to promote Respect for All in your neighborhood.   


Nearly 400 of Westchester's top movers and shakers turned out for "A Tree Grows in Pleasantville," a cocktail party for Jewish Child Care Association's The Cottage Schools  on Saturday, January 7th. This year marked the 100th birthday of JCCA's Pleasantville Campus, where "cottage style" residential living was pioneered in this country. The event kicked off "Paving the Way: The Cottage Schools Brick Campaign."


This year's event raised more than $353,000. Over the last seven years, the benefit has raised more than $1.8 million. "All funds go directly to providing core essentials to the vulnerable youth of The Cottage Schools," said Richard Altman, JCCA CEO.


For more information about "Paving The Way: The Cottage Schools Brick Campaign," please email jcca@jccany.org. .


The Journal News did an in-depth feature, on the front page of the January 10th, 2012 issue, on the 100th birthday of the Campus. To read the article online, click here.



Acteva Offers Online Auction Webinar

While direct donations to charity might be down, online shopping is up, making this the perfect time for online charity auctions. Online auctions enable non-profits to raise funds through the auction of in-kind items and experiences, either leading up to an event or on a standalone virtual basis. Learn from the providers of the world's most advanced auction platform how some of world's most recognizable non-profits, corporations and celebrities have benefitted from online auctions.


In this webinar, you will learn how to:

  • Benefit from online auctions even if you have limited manpower and resources
  • Easily create completely customizable auctions on a secure platform
  • Use social media to maximize exposure of your auction and connect with the community
  • Broaden fundraising endeavors to have extensive, international appeal and donor reach
  • Solicit and make use of in-kind gifts that corporate and individual donors contribute
  • Compile comprehensive consumer intelligence data


Monetizing Gifts In-Kind: Trends and Benefits of Online Auctions   

February 8th, 2:00pm EST


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