By KATHY CARLSON
If you were a hockey fan, you could say that Nashville businessman Fred Zimmerman is going for the hat trick when it comes to helping support the local Jewish community.
He has agreed to chair the 2018 Annual Campaign of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, and it will be the third such campaign he has led.
“Everything we do (in annual campaign) is related to what happens on the ground here,” between donors and the community our donations support, he said. “Your thoughts, desires, and ambitions are directly involved in what we’re doing.”
Jewish Federation President Lisa Perlen, in announcing that Zimmerman had agreed to chair the 2018 Annual Campaign, called him “an avid supporter and invaluable resource to our Jewish Federation. It is an honor and privilege to work with him as the Chair of our Federation campaign. His vast experience and knowledge of our community as well as communities worldwide will help us advance our campaign.”
He succeeds Dr. Frank Boehm, who was the 2017 Campaign Chair. That campaign “is poised to be the Federation’s most successful in more than a decade,” Nashville Federation Executive Director Mark Freedman said. “Frank has set the bar high and Fred is the perfect choice to leap over it.”
Zimmerman has served in virtually every leadership position with the Jewish Federation, Freedman said. “He has chaired the Annual Campaign twice previously, he is a past President of the Jewish Federation and past chair of the Jewish Foundation. Fred continues to play major roles when it comes to Israel and international Jewry. … He serves on the board of governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel and he is Vice Chair of the United Israel Appeal. Fred is also a member of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and recently completed a two-year term as chair of JFNA’s Intermediate-sized cities representing more than 50 Jewish Federations from across the United States and Canada.”
“It has been interesting to watch the evolution of fund-raising,” Zimmerman said in a July interview. He first chaired the Annual Campaign in 1993-1994. “Federations don’t have one decision maker; they have thousands,” he continued.
It’s “not just a simple ask,” he said. “You have to start looking (at fundraising as part of) an integrated whole” that includes community goal-setting. In Nashville, that has happened through two iterations of the Best Jewish Nashville priority-setting process, in which our community creates a vision for the future, raises funds and develops operations to bring the vision into reality.
The Best Jewish Nashville process initiated a grants-based approach to funding, and the Nashville federation has become a national symbol for the grants-based approach to funding. “Harriet (Schiftan, the Nashville Federation’s associate executive director who spearheaded Best Jewish Nashville) gets a lot of calls about” it.
Throughout the process, programs are evaluated to determine how they meet community needs. The goal is to “make sure there is a direct line between the ask and the results we see with grants and other programs,” he said.
For example, one goal of Best Jewish Nashville was to develop closer ties with Israel. Programs such as Partnership2Gether and Get Connected have brought Israelis and Americans together over the years.
“It’s visible now but a lot of thought went into” what we are seeing today, he said. Zimmerman was president of the Nashville Federation when “a few visionary people” had an idea about developing closer ties with Israel. The programs were established and since then, hundreds of people in Israel and Nashville have gotten to know one another.
Zimmerman’s breadth of experience throughout the Jewish community informs his approach to the Annual Campaign and, ultimately, enhances the ties between Nashville and the rest of the Jewish world.
Recently, the Jewish Agency (for Israel)’s board discussed the Israeli government’s actions reversing a decision that would have allowed men and women to pray together at certain parts of the Kotel, he said.
Beyond responding to the immediate issue, there’s a bigger underlying question of the level of understanding between American and Israeli Jews, he said. Through programs built on the Best Jewish Nashville goal of building closer ties between the United States and Israel, both Americans and Israelis better understand each other because they’ve built personal connections. “Getting people to understand reality is quite a wonderful thing.”
“The more people understand that (everything that’s done through) Federation, the GJCC, Akiva, all our partners is a reflection of their dreams and desires, the better we are,” he said.
“Every day we’re saving lives, building community. Every day we’re building progressive Judaism in Israel,” he said. Contributing to the Annual Campaign is “not a gift, it’s an investment” •