2018-04-11 / Columns

Two exciting new programs making everyone feel welcome

Federation President

Sometimes it’s the little things that count: Simple things like coffee or dinner with a friend or making an impact through a one-on-one connection. When we talk about community engagement being one of Jewish Federation’s “areas of impact,” this encompasses every conversation, meeting, event, and program we have with you, our South Jersey Jewish community.

The Jewish Federation’s Center for Impact and Innovation recently launched two new programs designed to start the conversation at the one-on-one level. Coffee Talk was born of Penn Hillel Director Rabbi Mike Uram’s idea that if someone has three “Jewish” conversations, he or she could change the trajectory of their communal involvement. We are moving toward the age of micro communities: One size does not fit all anymore, and that holds true for how we engage our community. We must meet people one-on-one to truly discover each person’s passion and path.

The Jewish Federation has teamed up with the Jewish Community Foundation, Inc. to start this pilot program, but it is truly a collaboration of all our agencies. A representative from each agency has been selected to be a “Coffee Connector” to take individuals out for coffee and get to know them—and what motivates them to get involved in our Jewish Federation family. Is it a commitment to being Jewish or wanting to be a part of something larger than themselves?

Is it a desire to live up to the values instilled by their parents and grandparents or just wanting to share their good fortune?

There are so many ways to get involved in our Jewish Federation family—and the Coffee Talk pilot program is an exciting new opportunity to explore those options for folks who aren’t yet sure of how to get involved.

The Center for Impact and Innovation’s other new pilot program is an Interfaith Families Wine & Dine series. This program engages interfaith couples in an intimate, small-group setting to talk about their faiths, their challenges, and their successes in raising an interfaith family. The series brings Rabbi Robyn Frisch, the director of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia, across the bridge for some insight and guidance to this conversation. Our goal is to make interfaith families feel welcome in our South Jersey Jewish community and to help them learn how to incorporate even more Judaism into their lives.

This series kicked off in January with dinner and drinks with just the wives, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to get to know each other and talk about how the holidays went. The group met again in March, this time including spouses, for dinner and drinks and more conversation. So far, it’s been a resounding success with positive feedback from all participants, who have found it both fun and an opportunity to meet other couples dealing with the same issues. Another session is now being planned to conclude this three-part pilot series.

We’re looking forward to seeing what the future might bring for both of these new pilot programs. Kudos to our Center for Impact and Innovation for always looking for new ways to engage our community and make everyone feel welcome here in Jewish South Jersey.

For more information about either of these programs, contact Charlene Green, learning specialist & Leadership and Community Engagement, at cgreen@jfedsnj.org or (856) 751-9500, ext. 1403.  jfedpres@jfedsnj.org

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