Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Federation Annual Meeting Speech

Thank you for that generous introduction. First I want to thank my wife Jeana, without whose support I would not be here tonight. I would also like to thank all of you for coming, and also give special thanks to the members of the Federation board. Could all the members of the board please stand up to be recognized? Thank you.

Last years annual meeting seems to have been from another era now. While there were definitely signs of the coming storm, few of us were predicting the situation we are now in. Just a few months after our meeting, the economic environment of our nation changed dramatically. What seemed to be a spot of bother with some obscure securities that had something to do with mortgages turned into a conflagration that devastated the stock market, and left many people throughout the country and in our own communities jobless.

This economic contraction had severe effects on the Federation, both in our ability to raise money, and in the needs of those for whom we raise it. To deal with the reduction in funds, we undertook several steps, including cutting staff. Another painful choice was to cut out the paper version of the Link, a choice that as you know was not well received in the community, and was reversed. We are looking forward to working hard with the Link staff to get it on a sound economic footing, by increasing both advertising and subscription revenue. We are counting on your support in this effort.

We are holding our campaign goal flat for next year. After growing used to increasing agency allocations year over year this is disappointing. It is especially so since we are hearing from several of our beneficiary agencies that their needs are increasing, even as other sources of funding are declining. Ideally this will be a temporary setback, and when the economy recovers, perhaps late this year, we will be able to plan a return to increases.

Times of economic distress have historically been bad for Jews. People inclined to hate us are capable of believing entirely contradictory things at once, such as that we control the banks and support the rich, and that we are communists intent on destroying our country. The only unity between these slurs is that both deal with money. Perhaps it is a legacy of the Middle Ages when the field of finance was the only one open to our European forebears. It hardly matters, except that we have seen some troubling signs, both in internet messages posted on economic bulletin boards, and even worse in violent attacks such as the recent one at the holocaust museum, in which Stephen Tyrone Johns was murdered while guarding the entrance.

It is not my intention to needlessly alarm anyone. New Mexico has a long history of tolerance for diverse cultures, and that is one of the things we love about this place. But we can not ignore security concerns. To stop an armed gunman, the best thing is an armed guard. We do not have the funds to have a permanent security presence at all (or indeed any) of our Jewish institutions. We do however have an option available to us that is not available to Jews in New York or Washington DC.

My friend Jill Bulmash discussed this in a recent article in the Link. She has applied for and received a license to carry a concealed handgun. I am confident that should any “lone wolf” gunman attempt an assault on any place she happens to be visiting, she would do what she had to, to stop him.

The police can't be everywhere, and with a solitary attacker the important thing is to have a fast response. Armed citizens have proven to be very effective in countering these kinds of attacks. Carrying a gun is a tremendous responsibility, but in an emergency you could save many lives.

On a more positive note, one of the things we are most excited about this year is that we have begun to make the Jewish Federation of New Mexico live up to its name. That is, we are going statewide in a real way. We made two tours of New Mexico communities. To the North we visited Los Alamos, Taos, and Las Vegas. In the South we visited Ruidoso, Roswell, Carlsbad, Las Cruces, and Silver City. The Link has had detailed articles about this outreach effort, so I will only mention that in each of the communities we found real needs, and real opportunities. I want to especially recognize our new board member Howard Katz who will be the voice of the Carlsbad community. Carolyn Sidd, a leader in Roswell, had agreed to be on our board, but could not due to health concerns. Our thoughts are with the Sidds this evening.

One of the challenges of any organization is to ensure continuity. In Federation speak, we say “Leadership Development”, which means programs that teach the next generation about Federation, and encourage them to get involved. How can we do that, and reach out to all the Jews in New Mexico?

Jewish Leadership New Mexico is our answer. New Leaders will engage with communities around the State, listening to their needs, coming up with programs to address those needs, and raising the money to fulfill them. In short, the group will do everything that Federation does, albeit on a different scale. As a beneficiary of Federation leadership programs at the local and national level, I can attest to their value in building educated and committed leaders. This program is a unique, and very exciting one.

I want to thank John Friedman for taking charge of it, for further information you can contact him or Sam.

Meryl thank you for your fine leadership at the JCC. It was a pleasure working with you. Likewise I am looking forward to working with incoming JCC President Marcy Powers. And finally, thank you Sam, for all of your hard work. You have been a tremendous partner in all that we do.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tesla talk

I will be speaking tonight at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center about the Telsa roadster, and electric cars in general. The Los Alamos Sustainable Energy Network is hosting, and I believe all are welcome, so if you are in the Los Alamos area, and are interested in the subject, please stop by.

Nick Kristof is an idiot

Op-Ed Columnist - Cum Laude in Evading Bandits - NYTimes.com
When a friend of mine put on his Facebook page recently that he was a fan of Nick Kristof, I knew for sure that he had been marinating in the Upper West Side for too long. Then I decided that perhaps I was being too harsh, since I don't really read that many of his articles.

Several days ago, while traveling in Europe I saw a copy of the International Herald Tribune that had the linked article in it. At first I thought maybe my distaste for Kristof was misplaced, since he was advocating something I strongly believe in, which is travel to other countries and interaction with other cultures. I haven't made it to Bolivia yet, but I have been to Bombay, and stayed with friends there, and even walked through slums, as he recommends.

His advice on how to avoid being robbed is also practical and sensible.

So what was the problem? His last line:
And even if everything goes wrong and you are robbed and catch malaria, shrug it off — those are precisely the kinds of authentic interactions with local cultures that, in retrospect, enrich a journey and life itself.

Remember the old line "A Conservative is a Liberal who has been mugged"? Apparently Nick Kristof is Liberal who stays a Liberal after being mugged. How? By telling himself that being mugged, like catching malaria, is a life-enriching experience. What an idiot.