By KATHY CARLSON
September is a time for new beginnings – the High Holidays, returning to school and, for your Nashville Jewish community, a time to build up resources to enable new beginnings continue into the future.
A new beginning might be a child’s first day at Jewish preschool, making new friends at a BBYO event, taking that first Shalom Taxi ride. It might that first Shabbat dinner at Vanderbilt Hillel as a brand-new college student.
All these firsts have something in common: the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee (JFNMT) and the annual campaign that supports it, launching this month.
“The goal for the launch in September is to talk to donors about the need for serving more people,” says Jewish Federation Assistant Executive Director Naomi Limor Sedek, who leads the Federation’s total financial resource development team.
Conversations with donors will take place throughout the campaign, informally and at events such as Girls Night Out, a women’s philanthropy event set for Nov. 9.
“We want to connect as many dots as possible for women in our community,” said Stephanie Townsend, chair of the Girls Night Out event for women’s philanthropy. “We want them to have a good time and make connections to give back to the community. Federation supports so many programs and activities: Akiva, the GJCC, camps, all different parts of the community. There probably are women who are taking advantage of these activities but don’t really know Federation is supporting them.”
Requests for services and financial assistance have increased throughout Nashville’s Jewish community, from its youngest to oldest residents, which also mirrors a rising need for services for Jews around the world.
For example, more families requested needs-based scholarships so their children could attend Camp Davis, the only 8-week Jewish day camp in Middle Tennessee. Jewish Federation’s 2017 scholarship support for Jewish campers increased 7 percent from the previous summer, but requests for assistance exceeded available funds. Camp Davis is serving more campers each summer and projects a 15 percent growth in the number of campers next summer.
Many families also need a hand in sending children to overnight camp. In the past five years, requests for needs-based scholarships have increased by 150 percent and total awards have risen by 100 percent. The reasons include both increased needs and rising costs of Jewish camping and immersive experiences.
The JFNMT supports Jewish cultural, religious and social life on a variety of campuses throughout Tennessee including Belmont, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee at Knoxville and Vanderbilt University. It is estimated that close to 1,500 Jewish college students attend these schools with over 1,000 currently being served by Hillel and Jewish Student Services. With additional resources we can reach the additional 33 percent.
Jewish Federation is helping elderly Nashvillians remain part of the community through Shalom Taxi vouchers that help them get to doctor’s appointments as well as get together with friends. Since its inception, Shalom Taxi has seen a 98 percent growth in ridership, increasing from 37 rides per month to 73 rides per month. In 2018, Shalom Taxi usage is expected to increase by 20 percent and with increased support, we can provide the additional rides to seniors in our community.
In addition to raising funds, the Jewish Federation’s annual campaign will include donor recognition such as the Nov. 9 Girls Night Out featuring Jane Weitzman, former executive vice president of Stuart Weitzman and the first vice president of Stuart Weitzman retail.
“Having Jane Weitzman, who is very involved in philanthropy, tell her story will inspire women here,” event chairperson Townsend said. Local women will also tell their own stories about how they’ve connected philanthropically. The event is open to all women. Any woman interested in volunteering to be on the host committee can contact Townsend, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early next year, everyone in the community will be invited to participate in “30 Days of Doing Good, ” our marketing campaign to educate the entire community about the Jewish Federation’s work locally and abroad.
In February, a revamped Tzedakah Tzunday will engage our community and volunteers in new and meaningful ways. Nashville’s congregations will hold Jewish Federation Shabbat services starting in February and the community will celebrate the campaign and work of the Jewish Federation in March.
“We hope you’ll join us and share your experiences as we work together to strengthen our communities,” said Sedek. •