JCP Staff

Jewish Community Partners announces the hiring of Miriam Roochvarg, who joins JCP as Engagement Associate. Miriam will oversee various Memphis Jewish Federation initiatives, including PJ Library, Newcomers, Shalom Baby, and the Israeli Scouts. A lifetime of rich Jewish experiences and engagement has equipped her with the ideal skillset and outlook to ensure these programs continue to thrive and serve the community.

By Miriam Roochvarg

As a former clergy kid- my dad was a cantor for over 20 years before retiring-, Camp Judea alumna, Ramah Darom alumna, and graduate of the American Hebrew Academy, a Jewish boarding high school in N.C., you could say I come from a rich Jewish environment.

As I was finishing my Communications degree at North Carolina State University, I realized I wanted to make a difference, but didn’t know where or how. Outside of home, school is where kids spend the most time, giving educators the opportunity to impact lives in a profound way. I decided I’d give teaching a try.

When I was accepted into Teach For America I was asked to rank locations I would be interested to teach in. A main priority was a city with a good Jewish community, and from what I saw online, Memphis seemed all that and more. I’m happy to say, the decision hasn’t disappointed me one bit.

Through Jewish geography and a little chutzpah, before my move, I connected with Rabbi Sarit Horwitz, and a former co-worker of my mom’s who lived here in Memphis. Thanks to them I was able to connect with welcoming community members who helped me get situated here, and make this place my home.

Because of the support that was offered to me, I wanted to make sure I could offer the same to others. Whether it was grabbing coffee with new young professionals, recommending dentists or doctors offices, or offering my babysitting services to new families in the area, I wanted to help people feel welcome, at home, and connected. I know that makes all the difference when it comes to turning a new place into a home.

While I loved the students I taught, I decided at the end of my two-year commitment this past May that it was time to transition out of teaching. When I heard Jewish Community Partners was looking for an Engagement Associate, I knew I had to apply. Apparently other community members thought of me as well, because more than a few forwarded me the job posting.

Now, as a member of the Jewish Community Partners team, I have not just the opportunity but a professional responsibility to welcome more newcomers to Memphis, engage with kids and families through the dynamic PJ Library program, and use what I’ve learned as a teacher and student of life to help educate and connect our community members with themselves, each other, and the greater Memphis Mishpacha (family).

I look forward to connecting with more members of this wonderful community and offer my support any way I can, just like I was supported when I was a new member of the community. “My “virtual” door is always open. If you’d like to be involved with any of my programs and/or have any suggestions to strengthen them, please reach out to me at Wishing all of you a happy, sweet, support-filled new year! Shana Tova Umetuka!

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By Mark Wilf, Chair of Jewish Federations of North America Board of Trustees.

Last summer, Jewish Community Partners partnered with the Secure Community Network (SCN), the official homeland security initiative of the organized North American Jewish community, to launch a Regional Security Director program with the hiring of Memphis resident, security expert, and law enforcement veteran Stuart Frisch. Learn more here.

This past year, from Pittsburgh to Poway, our community has been the target of hate and violence, manifested in two violent attacks against our houses of worship, with several additional plots prevented through the work of federal, state and local law enforcement.

At the same time, through the group that we rely on to protect the Jewish community, our Secure Community Network (SCN), our team has worked tirelessly to train our communities, assess our gaps and vulnerabilities and provide security advice and counsel, ensuring that our synagogues, schools, community centers, camps and other community spaces are taking the necessary efforts to prepare for and be able to respond to incidents through empowerment and resiliency.

In the more than 40 communities that have security directors, SCN has worked to support these individuals and develop best practices. In the vast majority of our communities, SCN has worked directly to address safety and security matters.

As part of these efforts, in support of our ongoing partnerships with our federal law enforcement partners, I had the privilege of attending meetings this week in Washington, D.C. with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan and FBI Director Christopher Wray. I was joined by JFNA and SCN leadership, as well as—for our meeting with the FBI Director—other key organizational partners around collaborative safety and security efforts, including the JCCA and ADL.

These meetings, organized and coordinated through SCN, are critical to the ongoing relationships and partnerships with our top homeland security officials who are tasked with keeping our communities safe and our nation secure.

Both Acting Secretary McAleenan and Director Wray lauded the work of SCN, holding it up as a model for other faith communities. They reaffirmed their commitment to continuing to work closely with JFNA, through SCN, to ensure the safety and security of our community and to combat the hate and threats that have become a pervasive and persistent reality in today’s complex and dynamic threat environment.

Throughout these meetings, the strength and power of the Federation system and our network was on full display. We are relied upon by key partners in the constant fight against terrorism and hate but also in the wake of natural disasters that devastate and impact so many communities – and where Federations are on the frontlines of response and recovery.

I particularly want to commend our SCN Chair, Harold Gernsbacher, and our extraordinary National SCN Director, Michael Masters, as well as their leadership team, and the network of regional directors for all they do for our Jewish community.

The pride and gratitude we feel for the crucial and lifesaving work being done on our behalf by SCN requires constant support and empowerment from our system. SCN needs to expand its ability to serve the entirety of our community, which makes over 200 requests per week for its services.

I ask that you to join with me in supporting SCN and identifying others who can do so. We want our community members to walk through our doors with confidence that their safety and security are our number one priority.

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When all 6 feet and nine inches of Israeli basketballer Omri Casspi ducked under the door and into the MJCC’s Belz Theater, the crowd gathered for this one-of-a-kind Hanukkah celebration knew they were experiencing something special. Rabbis from every Memphis congregation and agencies like the MJCC and Hillels of Memphis had just made NBA-style entrances, dribbling basketballs down the aisle while techno music pulsed through the sound system, and the crowd was on their feet.

The 30-year-old Memphis Grizzlies forward from Yavneh, outside Tel Aviv, strode up the aisle slapping fives with the crowd and climbed onto the stage, where he took questions from the predominantly school-aged audience, hitting topics like his connections to Judaism and Israel, his involvement in Birthright as one of the program’s celebrity spokespeople, and even fielded an invitation to attend a game as a guest of the Margolin Hebrew Academy basketball team. His answers showed a thoughtful, humble man ten years into a successful professional career, and grateful to make real relationships within Jewish Memphis.

After questions, the rabbis joined Omri onstage to light the menorah. Omri declined a script and gave the Hanukkah blessing from memory, joined by the rabbis, who then spontaneously led the crowd and each other through a series of Hanukkah songs.

“It was amazing coming together as a Jewish community with Omri to celebrate Hanukkah and demonstrate our athletic abilities as clergy,” said Hillels of Memphis Director Rabbi Jeremy Simons. “Many Jewish holidays are centered in the home. Hanukkah on the other hand requires public display of the Hanukkiah. Our lighting demonstrated the cohesiveness of our community across the denominations. Having a legitimate NBA star join us, one of two active Jewish players in the league who also happens to be Israeli and to play for our Grizzlies, made it a truly special Memphis moment.”

The event was put together quickly, and in partnership with Jewish Community Partners, MJCC, and the Memphis Grizzlies. The team reached out to JCP only days before they proposed to hold the event, and the staffs at JCP and MJCC took the ball and charged toward the net. The hustle and teamwork paid off- attendees left with signed swag, tickets to an upcoming game, and, most importantly, the warm glow of Hanukkah spent with friends and family.

“It was awesome,” Omri said after the event. “The welcome was so warm-hearted and we felt like part of the family – and not just me but my wife and my whole family. We really appreciated it and it’s fun to be a part of something like [the celebration].”

He connected the evening to the feelings he’s had since signing with the Grizzlies this summer and relocating to the city.

“It’s exceeded all of my expectations,” Omri said. “I knew the South was warm and the people of Memphis were great, but they have made us feel like part of something bigger, so we’re really grateful for that.”

“Despite the short planning window, our community was once again able to come together quickly and in large numbers, this time for a fun and meaningful holiday celebration,” said JCP’s Chief Strategy Officer Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein. “Having an NBA player, proud of his Jewish heritage and Israeli nationality, lighting Hanukkah candles with the rabbis and heads of school in our community embodies one of the main messages of Hanukkah, that of religious freedom. It was incredibly moving to witness Omri chanting the Hanukkah blessings and serving as a positive sports role model for the younger members of our community”

“This night with Omri Casspi was a gift to our community during Hanukkah,” said MJCC’s Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Weiser after the program. “Him being here, talking about what it means to be an Israeli in the NBA, lighting the menorah with our rabbis, signing autographs, and talking with those in attendance gave us something positive to gather around as an entire community. He helped shed a little extra Hanukkah light into our world.”

The evening clearly made an impression on Omri as well.

“The amount of people that were there and the fact that there were people from all parts of the community was beautiful to see,” he said. “It was one big family.”

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What values do you live by? How do you express your values in your work and personal life? What makes a value Jewish? How do these values shape who you are and who you want to become?

At the first seminar of the Next Gen Jewish Federation Fellowship last May, I began to develop leadership tools to effectively engage local volunteers and to help them find meaning in the work we do at Federation. This has become one of my priorities for the past six months, and I have had the opportunity to connect with many incredible young Jewish leaders in Memphis both individually and through committee work.

When I arrived in San Diego last month for our second seminar, I anticipated similar “leadership training,” and came prepared to continue the effective leadership conversations that my 20 colleagues from federations across North America started six months ago. As I expected, our discussions were incredibly high-level, but they took an intentional shift with the guidance of M2: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Learning to the Jewish values that impact and influence our work as leaders. I know that the values of community and family drive both my work and personal life, but I had not given deep thought to what these values mean for me as a leader in the Jewish community.

Over the course of three days, we explored values through different modalities – text study, improv, art, and personal stories.  Each conversation or experience brought out a new emotional response in me: excitement at fresh ideas, anxiousness at stepping outside my comfort zone, tears at discovering my own personal challenges, and hope that we can make a difference through our work in the Jewish community.

Towards the end of the seminar, I sat in a makeshift art studio surrounded by sharp colored pencils, colorful paper, and glitter glue. When staff members from the Jewish Studio Project asked us to select a value that guides our work, a new personal value umped out at me: GROWTH. While community and family will always be driving forces behind my involvement in the Jewish community, I believe that growth is a challenging, yet essential, part of everything we do at Federation. We must innovate and take risks so that we remain relevant and meaningful, particularly in our work with young adults.

For the next six months, I hope to grow and explore the values that drive each young adult, PJ Library parent, teen, and newcomer who connects with Federation. I look forward to discovering the values that bring us together as a community and finding meaning in how we express these values in our lives.

I am so grateful to Jewish Community Partners in Memphis, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Jim Joseph Foundation for enabling me to participate in this transformative leadership experience.


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Abbey Cowens, JCP’s Fundraising and Database Analyst, has been chosen to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Jewish Experiential Leadership Institute – Southeast (JELI) sponsored by The Leadership Commons of The William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). The cohort includes 20 fellows and 5 mentors who live and work in over 12 different communities across 7 states in the southeast region. They represent 11 different types of Jewish organizations, including Jewish Federation, JCC, Hillel, Jewish family services, BBYO, JNF, day schools, synagogues, Moishe House, and more. JELI-Southeast trains Jewish professionals for leadership by focusing on four key pillars: leadership principles, Jewish learning, community building, and personal growth.

JELI-Southeast is an outgrowth of the initial JELI program which was conducted in partnership with JCC Association to train middle and senior managers in JCCs throughout North America to lead through an educational and Jewish lens. The success of the first two JELI cohorts led the Leadership Commons to explore ways to reach even more Jewish professionals and communal leaders. As a result of this exploration, JELI-Southeast was launched to reach communities which have opportunities and challenges in common. This initiative will strengthen Abbey’s leadership skills, JCP’s role within the community, Memphis’ Jewish life, and the Jewish community throughout the entire Southeast.

“It’s an exciting opportunity, and an honor to be part of the inaugural cohort,” said Abbey.  “I’m looking forward to learning from my peers and mentors, and sharing ideas that will help further connect our JCP and its two flagship brands, Memphis Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Memphis, to the region nationally, and the Memphis community locally.”

The Leadership Commons was able to launch JELI-Southeast with generous support from the Jim Joseph Foundation, The Leon Levine Foundation, the William Davidson Foundation, the Amy Mandel / Katina Rodis Fund, and Birmingham Jewish Foundation.

The inaugural cohort will convene for its first intensive four-day retreat in Charlotte, NC in November 2018. Under the program direction of Debbie Joseph, from Gainesville, Florida, the cohort will continue learning through monthly online sessions, two additional four-day retreats, one-on-one mentoring, and project work over the next 18 months.

In addition to building on the original JELI curriculum, this cohort will study and experience the history and culture of the southeast in order to more effectively lead their communities and collaborate to strengthen Jewish life in this region as a whole.

Click here to learn more about the Jewish Experiential Leadership Institute.

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This week, Memphis Jewish Community Partners (JCP), together with the Secure Community Network (SCN), the official homeland security initiative of the organized North American Jewish community, launched a Regional Security Director (RSD) program with the hiring of Memphis resident, security expert and law enforcement veteran Stuart Frisch.

The initiation of the three-year pilot RSD program followed several months of collaboration between JCP and SCN, identifying areas of mutual concern, as well as opportunity. Modeled after the successful U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Protective Security Advisor program, this innovative approach is the first of its kind for a faith-based community.

Co-resourced by JCP and SCN, the RSD program provides community stakeholders in Memphis the committed focus of a local security director, while offering the benefits of a coordinated approach at the regional and national levels.

“Security is a top priority for our Jewish community, and we were ready to take our efforts to the next level,” said Laura Linder, President & CEO of Jewish Community Partners. “We are proud to join with SCN to pilot such an important partnership.”

These benefits include: access to the latest information through SCN from national level partners, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and DHS, on threats to the Jewish community, as well as a direct connection to best practice resources, from policies and procedures and assessment guides to technology platforms and training curricula.

“Ensuring fiscal responsibility while increasing information-sharing and communication across the Jewish community and improving access to resources is critical, given the existing threat environment,” noted Michael Masters, National Director and CEO of SCN, “this program is not only the first of its kind for the Jewish community, nationally, it is the first of its kind for any faith-based community. We are proud of our partnership with JCP, in Memphis.”

Mr. Frisch has an extensive background as a security professional, with more than 20 years of experience planning, developing, and implementing diversified security programs across the military, corporate, and government sectors. He is a certified trainer through both the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Prior to joining SCN, Mr. Frisch served as Coordinator of Security Operations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where he was responsible for creating security policy for a workforce of more than 5000 across 17 countries.

Mr. Frisch served with the Memphis Police Department, Office of Homeland Security for more than a decade, and previously served in a Special Operations capacity with the Israel Defense Forces.

The role of the RSD will be to provide vital services, including: serving as a point person for all issues of security; monitoring, coordinating and sharing information related to issues impactful to the community, to include public safety issues and terrorism; making regular, frequent visits to Jewish organizations to assess security needs and make recommendations where needed; designing, developing and providing security training and education; maintaining effective partnerships with local, state, and federal law enforcement and emergency management agencies, and; coordinating security for major events in the community.

Initiating the partnership, SCN National Director and CEO Michael Masters and RSD Stuart Frisch met this week with senior law enforcement leadership in Memphis, including representatives of the Memphis Police Department, Emergency Management Agency of Shelby County, Tennessee, the United States Secret Service, and the FBI, among others.

Traditionally the largest Jewish community in Tennessee, Memphis is home to an estimated Jewish population of 8,000. The Jewish community is comprised of preschools, day schools, social service and issue-focused agencies, and a Jewish community center at which several of these institutions are housed, in addition to seven synagogues.

With the launch of the RSD initiative and the hiring of Frisch, the Memphis community and its neighbors across the Southeast gain a tremendous local resource, while also joining a national network of security directors, safety experts, and dedicated professionals devoted to the well-being of the North American Jewish community.

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Jewish Community Partners President and CEO Laura Linder gratefully announced the creation of a new $2 million endowment fund that will support the operating expenses of University of Memphis Hillel and Rhodes College Hillel. The fund, established by combining a new $1 million gift from an anonymous donor and an existing $1.1 million fund already part of the organization’s endowment, will provide an annual grant to Memphis Jewish Federation’s annual campaign and is directed to support Jewish college engagement at both campuses.

Jewish Rhodes students celebrated the establishment of the Hillel on their campus.

This endowment helps cap a milestone year for Hillels of Memphis, which also saw the organization’s growth onto a second campus at Rhodes College and the hiring of new leadership in Hillels of Memphis Director Rabbi Jeremy Simons.

“This is a truly remarkable gift, given in the true spirit of tzedakah,” said Ms. Linder. “Working with this family to establish such a meaningful fund has been a highlight of this past year. Perpetuating Jewish college life at U of M and Rhodes is a priority of our organization and will mean so much for future Jewish students at U of M and Rhodes College.”

The new money adds to other funds to collectively supply Hillels of Memphis with a sustainable source of funding for all of its programs, on both campuses, for the foreseeable future. This will enable Memphis college students to have spaces and experiences in which to connect and engage Jewishly for generations to come.

“This endowment ensures the long-term success of our program on both campuses,” said Hillels of Memphis Director Rabbi Jeremy Simons. “As a Jewish community we talk about the need to attract young people to make Memphis their home. There’s no better way to welcome the next generation of Jewish Memphians than to create and fund programs that appeal to them.”

“This is the kind of generosity that changes everything for Jewish college students in Memphis,” said Rhodes Hillel Advisory Committee Chair Wendy Rotter. “While inspired by the formation of the new Hillel Chapter at Rhodes, the increased endowment ensures that Hillels on both campuses will thrive for generations of students, who will get to share meaningful Jewish moments while making life-long friends. It’s a profoundly important gift that further strengthens the Memphis Jewish community and serves an age group of Jews that don’t always engage in other Federation programs. I’m touched and grateful.”

Student President of the University of Memphis Hillel, Aaron Canales, was similarly moved when he learned the news.

The increased endowment will allow both campuses’ Hillels expand their programming, like this inter-faith Seder at the University of Memphis.

“I’m going to be gone within a couple of years, so this is tangential to my college experience,” said Canales. “But the fact that this generous, committed donor sees the work we’re doing now and views us as worthy and eligible for this support is nothing short of breathtaking. Whomever it is, I can’t thank them enough.”

Hal Fogelman, who currently chairs the Advisory Committee for the Hillel on the University of Memphis campus, echoed the amazement and gratitude.

“College years can be a challenge for young people who are away from family and congregational traditions for the first time in their lives. Now, because of this amazing act of generosity, college students in Memphis will be guaranteed access to Jewish experiences with new friends and mentors for decades to come,” said Fogelman.

“But in addition to what this endowment does for the students, to me it’s also a sign of the interconnectedness of the Memphis Jewish community. People here truly care about one another, and about sustaining meaningful connections to Judaism for anyone who wants to be involved. I’m moved by this benevolent act, and can’t wait to be involved in Hillel lay leadership and see what the future holds for young adults in Jewish Memphis.”

“Maimonides teaches anonymous giving is the greatest monetary form of tzedakah,” said Rabbi Simons. “To give in such a way demonstrates true generosity without concern for recognition or other self-benefit. This person’s gift is as inspirational as it is beneficial. While Hillel students will never know the identity of the giver, they will know of the gift and hopefully emulate this generous act in the future.”



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Bluma Zuckerbrot-Finkelstein and Sheri Gadberry have received much-deserved promotions and will soon grow into new and expanded roles at Jewish Community Partners, leveraging their skills, experience, and intellect for the benefit of the Memphis Jewish Community. Bluma is now JCP’s Chief Strategy Officer and Sheri is now the organization’s Director of Operations.

As Chief Strategy Officer, Bluma will oversee work that builds on the momentum sparked by 2014’s Needs Assessment Study, which was conducted soon after Memphis Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Memphis consolidated under the umbrella of Jewish Community Partners.

While that 2014 study identified service gaps in the Memphis Jewish community which led to successful efforts to close these gaps, the study was a snapshot of our community in 2014, and needs evolve. In her expanded role, Bluma will work with Jewish agency representatives, lay leaders, program beneficiaries, and others with key knowledge and insight to constantly redeploy the methods used in the Needs Assessment Study, staying ahead of needs as they become apparent and creating the necessary mechanisms to efficiently meet those needs and assess impact.

“I am excited about my expanded role and look forward to taking needs assessment and program impact to the next level in our community,” Bluma said. “I am encouraged by the significant achievements of the Senior Services Collaborative and Fedovation Impact Grants — initiatives that respond to the service gaps identified in the Needs Assessment Study.  The breadth and depth of the community’ response to the study was remarkable and I hope to build on that momentum of community participation in strengthening the Memphis Jewish community, Israel, and global Jewry.”

In her new role as Director of Operations, Sheri will build on experience gained through almost two decades working with donors through their funds at Jewish Foundation of Memphis. While much of her work with JFOM was highly technical- managing large sums of money, managing different funds with diverse purposes and structures- she’s also spent a significant amount of time working with the people behind the funds, acquiring skills she’ll use internally working with JCP staff as Director of Operations.

Viewing JCP as a house of brands- from Memphis Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Memphis to Hillels of Memphis and PJ Library- Sheri will work with colleagues to increase efficiency across collaborative projects and reduce redundancy where she’s able.

“I’m not only a Memphis Jewish community professional, I’m a life-long member of this community with a deep love for the people and agencies with whom I share it,” Sheri said. “Working with donors, agency reps, and beneficiaries through the programs of our brands and our partners is meaningful to me beyond simply punching the clock and putting in a day at the office. I cherish my work because I get to work with my friends making a difference in Jewish Memphis, and around the world.”

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We’re marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel with a year-long celebration! Keep an eye out for “Memphis Celebrates Israel at 70” branding at your synagogue, at events around town, and online. In this My Israel Story series, we’re asking Memphians to tell their personal Israel stories. Do you have a story to tell?


My husband and I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. We left Memphis on March 26, 2018 with six carry-ons, four kids, four suitcases, three car seats, two strollers, and one hiking backpack. It took three flights and three days until we arrived at our final destination – Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. Not only did we make it, but our luggage did too!

We know we are crazy for traveling almost 7,000 miles with four young children but Israel has been calling for us. My husband had not been to Israel since his gap year between high school and college. I have a brother in Israel who I had not seen in ten years and never met five of his eight children. My husband had been saying we had to go since we got married but it always seemed impossible. First he was in medical school and residency and had no time off. Then we had children. If we went alone, who would watch our kids? If we take the kids, how do we manage the logistics and cost? But he was adamant that it was time. The question was when and how. We decided on Passover 2018.

In ten days, our family walked, hiked, swam, climbed, rappelled, rode in Jeeps, drove ATVs, ate delicious food and prayed. There is no way to squeeze our experiences into 500 words for an article so we will share some highlights from our four children.

Ethan, age 9. “Rappelling 70 feet off a cliff into Gai Ben Hinnom, which is the Hinnom Valley surrounding the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Even though it was raining and slippery, it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”

Nava, age 7. “In Jerusalem we got to go to the Kotel. I put a letter in the Wall and I hope my wish comes true. I also loved how much kosher food there was in Israel. Eating kosher for Passover chicken nuggets at McDonalds was really cool and seeing all the kosher gummy candy in Machane Yehuda was awesome. I wanted to bring it all home with me to Memphis!”

Ezra, age 4. “Going in the Dead Sea was my favorite. I thought I would be scared but I just floated on my back!”

Eli, 18 months. Who knows? Probably being carried in the hiking backpack while the rest of us were exhausted!

As parents, it was incredible to see the love our kids have for Israel. The value of our kids’ Jewish day school education was apparent everywhere we went! They ordered food in Hebrew, gave tzedakah willingly, and felt comfortable davening at many holy sites. While traveling with 4 kids was quite the endeavor, it was worth it. My husband was right (although it’s rare!) that Passover 2018 was our time to visit Israel.

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By Lauren Luskey Taube

JCP’s Engagement and YAD Campaign Manager


When I accepted a spot in the inaugural cohort of the NextGen Jewish Federation Fellowship, I was thrilled. Engaging Jewish young adults as leaders and donors is essential for the future of Federation and our Memphis Jewish community. I have worked with an incredible group of young adults this year to address the future of Jewish millennial engagement in Memphis, but I know that we still have a lot of work to do. I hoped this fellowship would give me the tools to empower Jewish young adults to lead and give, but I did not anticipate the transformative experience upon which I had embarked.

The 22 women in my cohort gathered for our first four-day seminar in Greensboro, North Carolina. As we shared our stories and challenges, I began to understand that we may represent 20 federations throughout North America, but we each face similar challenges in creating meaning for Jewish young adults. With guidance from the incredible team at M2: The Institute for Experiential Jewish Learning, we engaged in deep text study about creating community and discussed how to make a lasting impact in our work with Jewish young adults.

I was so lucky to have a cohort of talented, passionate professionals to help explore how we can transform the landscape of leadership, philanthropy, and engagement for Jewish young adults. These conversations alone would have made for a meaningful seminar, but only spanned the first day! Our stories and questions set the stage for the intense personal growth to come.

On the second and third days, we gathered at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), a global provider of leadership development. The Greensboro campus with its sprawling gardens and fully equipped classrooms served as the perfect backdrop for intense conversations about how we could become more effective leaders and change agents.

As the CCL faculty shared the results of the assessments I completed before the seminar began, I realized just how complex my personal leadership style has become. Based on the feedback I received and Memphis’ need to inspire Jewish young adults to become leaders and donors, I have decided that the first part of my fellowship will focus on developing tools to effectively engage volunteers and to help them find meaning in the work we do at Federation.

With the help of one of CCL’s incredible professional coaches, I have begun to push myself beyond my comfort zone to become a better leader and empower others to get involved. As one of our CCL faculty said, “There is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone.” The future of the Memphis Jewish community relies on the passion and commitment of the next generation, and I look forward to sharing my learning and working with our community to push beyond our comfort zones and help Jewish young adults become leaders and philanthropists.

I am so grateful to Jewish Community Partners in Memphis, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Jim Joseph Foundation for enabling me to participate in this transformative experience, and this first seminar was only the beginning. I am already looking forward to the next time my cohort meets in November so we can continue to explore what it means to help Jewish young adults create their own Jewish connections and meaning.

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