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.


  • Shalom Robert!

    I don't have your card, so looked up your blog to find your email. Couldn't find it, so here I am! Nice job on the blogs. And thanks so much for meeting with me yesterday. It was a pleasure meeting you.

    til our next,
    Randi Chaikind

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 01 July, 2009 14:15  

  • I'm certain that this Presidential speech is the only one in the Federation system which advocates for concealed weapons as a security measure within the Jewish community. I'm tempted to pass this along to the broader Jewish community and media. Keep up the good work my brother!

    By Blogger Unknown, at 13 July, 2009 14:56  

  • Thanks for the kind words Jonathan. The speech will be published in the Link, so it may get some more attention. Perhaps we can find some more support in the Federation community!

    By Blogger efroymson, at 15 July, 2009 13:41  

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