Your Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee is building a flourishing Jewish community in partnership with our agencies, congregations, and Jewish community organizations. By emphasizing strategic engagement and outreach as Nashville and Middle Tennessee grows in terms of both the Jewish and general population, we welcome and involve newcomers, those who are unaffiliated, those who are seeking new ways to connect Jewishly, and Jewish community members who live outside the historical geographic core where most of our congregations and agencies are located.
As we saw during the pandemic, the role of Federation is unique as a convener, drawing together members of our Jewish community, whether virtually and/or in person, to grow participation in activities, volunteerism, and donations. We run an efficient operation in fulfilling our mission statement to promote the general welfare, viability, and cohesiveness of the Jewish community and to ensure continuity of the Jewish people locally, in Israel, and around the world.
Raising more than $150,000 in donor directed COVID Emergency Response Funds and over $74,000 in Human Service Relief Matching Funds last year, above and beyond donations to the Annual Campaign, our Federation was able to provide vitally needed immediate assistance to local Jewish individuals and families through increased support to our agencies and congregations. This only was possible because the Federation infrastructure was in place and organized to respond rapidly in a time of crisis.
Meanwhile, more than $800,000 in Jewish community security funding has protected our congregations and agencies in just the past three years through the leadership of our Federation, both as a direct funder and as a grant-writer for Department of Homeland Security Nonprofit Security Grants. Of that amount, more than $600,000 was secured from sources outside the Annual Campaign. This funding is the direct result of the Federation’s prioritizing and taking the lead on community security. Additionally, our Federation leads security coordination in Jewish Nashville and Middle Tennessee at the highest levels with local, state, and Federal law enforcement and elected officials.
Likewise, more than 3,500 people in Tennessee were educated about antisemitism through the recent virtual event Shine a Light on Antisemitism – No Place for Hate in our State. Drawing together leaders from government, academia, and business, our Federation was the convener on behalf of all four Jewish Federations in Tennessee (including Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Memphis). This emphasis on antisemitism is an ongoing and enduring role which we take very seriously, working in partnership with our agencies, congregations, and state and national Jewish organizations.
While some people would advocate for shifting Federation support away from Israel & Overseas to redirect those dollars to local purposes, our Nashville Jewish community members have shown that they will respond with increased support to a compelling case for giving. Utilizing this funding, we educate our local youth and young adults through the work of our Israel Emissary (Shlicha), by the return of Get Connected teen travel to Israel, and the Hadera-Eiron Partnership2Gether. We care for Jews in need in 70 countries around the world, including the poorest Jews on earth such as the frail elderly in Russia and the former Soviet republics. We literally are the keepers of our Jewish brothers and sisters through the power of our Federation collective action, whether it is the ongoing absorption of Ethiopian Jews in Israel to prevent the formation of a permanent Black Israeli underclass or preparing to rescue Ukrainian Jews in the event of a Russian invasion (as of this writing in mid-February).
In continuing our vital work here in Nashville and Middle Tennessee, we build strong networks within the broader local community where we live. In the May 2021 issue of the Observer, then President of the Federation, Steven Hirsch, wrote an article titled “What We Stand For.” He articulated that, “Perhaps the best way to fight Anti-Semitism in our own community is to build bridges with non-Jewish groups to de-mystify perceived differences in religious practices and customs.” He explained that Federation is not a political organization and that we are non-partisan. “This is precisely why the Federation does not position itself as a left-leaning or right-leaning organization. We seek to occupy a middle ground where there is room for all opinions to be heard.”
It is exactly in this spirit of a big tent approach that our Federation welcomes people with diverse opinions to join our Jewish Community Relations Committee, which is comprised of people with a broad range of views on many issues. We encourage people to participate and specifically propose program topics and speakers. Simply put, we are at our best when community members, who are passionate about Jewish concerns from various perspectives, engage in meaningful dialogue to shape the content which we provide for educational purposes.
I invite every member of the Nashville and Middle Tennessee Jewish community to reach out to me directly with your thoughts and opinions. I want to hear from you. Please call me directly at 615-354-1660 or email me at email@example.com so we can connect. Thank you.
Eric Stillman is the CEO of The Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee