Shabbat Candlelighting 5:28 p.m.                                             Friday, November 4, 2011/ 7 Heshvan 5772

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Non-Profit Accountability
The Globe and Mail has been running a series of articles this week on the “new philanthropy”, which has included a focus on non-profit accountability. I thought it would be timely to share a few things you might want to know about how Jewish Federation addresses these issues.

First, in terms of Jewish Federation’s own finances, we have an active Finance Committee that is responsible for overseeing an annual external audit, reviewing and recommending our annual operating budget, and developing policies related to fiscal management. The committee includes community members with relevant experience in the accounting, business and finance fields. In addition, the Jewish Community Foundation has a very engaged Investment Committee, which works with an investment consulting firm to actively monitor the Foundation’s investments, and to ensure that the Investment Philosophy Statement is effectively guiding the long-term investment of community endowment funds. Here, too, we rely on community volunteers who bring relevant experience from the fields of finance and business.

An active Allocations Planning Committee, also made up of community volunteers, manages a very thorough two-year cycle for reviewing the funding applications of our local constituent agencies, and the annual allocations from the Federation Annual Campaign. There is an alternating cycle in which the first year of the cycle the committee reviews allocation requests, and in the second year reviews mid-course progress reports from agencies. In the past year, a subcommittee developed a new approach to evaluation. Last week, representatives from 11 partner agencies attended an all-day workshop on evaluating programs and services. The workshop is also used by United Way, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, together with their funded agencies. It is part of a larger Jewish Federation initiative, supported with grant assistance from the Jewish Community Foundation, to provide our agencies with information and tools to assess the impact of their programs, improve overall program effectiveness, and communicate their successes to funders and stakeholders. In addition to the workshop, a consultant is working with individual agencies to help them prepare their evaluation plans to be submitted as part of our 2012 allocations cycle. With 25 local agencies, it is challenging to manage a process that doesn’t overwhelm agency staff, our own staff and volunteers. However, the new program evaluation process is an important step forward in ensuring greater accountability to our donors and community.

Our very active Israel and Overseas Affairs Committee monitors our overseas allocations, and regularly reviews program reports on the various projects that we fund. Last spring, committee members traveled at their own expense for our first mission focused on site visits to our projects and meetings with the various agencies implementing them.

Accountability relating to the management of community funds is a strong component of our board and management’s culture and informs all of our deliberations. For more information about these issues, please feel free to contact Shelley Rivkin at

Inspiring Women
Our annual Choices event brought together more than 400 women to hear the inspirational story of Judy Feld Carr, a Canadian Jewish woman who quietly engineered and organized the rescue of more than 3,000 Syrian Jews, as well as the repatriation of important Jewish ritual objects and texts from Syria to Israel and other free destinations. With all but 24 elderly Jews who will never leave Syria, Judy is now free to speak more openly about her experiences, and the story is full of intrigue and cloak–and-dagger details that are hard to reconcile with the image of this energetic and vivacious Jewish grandmother. The last comment from a participant during the Q&A portion summed it all up. She quoted the Chanukah song “Mi Yimalel”, referring to the line that says “in every age a hero or sage comes to our aid”, and noted that forever when she sings this song, she will think of the amazing role Judy played in the rescue of Jewish lives from one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Choices is all about inspiring the women of our community through the example of peers in the Jewish world, and Judy Feld Carr is a role model par excellence. Co-chairs Sigal Mathews and Natalie Rosengarten, their committee and the more than 40 table captains, did an amazing job putting together a truly inspiring – and sold-out - evening. I would also like to acknowledge our Choices sponsors Dr. Marcy Schwartzman Inc. and Vancouver Podiatry, whose generous support means that more funds can be directed toward charitable purposes.

Mideast Round-Up
There is so much flying these days in terms of Mideast news that I’ll just touch on a few bullet points:

• Richard Goldstone, whose report on Operation Cast Lead has sparked much controversy, wrote an opinion column in The New York Times this week debunking the Israeli apartheid canard. It is worth a read.

• UNESCO (the UN agency focusing on education, science and culture) voted this week to admit Palestine as a member state for representation on its governing committee. This move, coming before the UN itself acts on the Palestinian bid for recognition of statehood, is viewed by Israel and many Western nations as a further erosion of a possible negotiated peace agreement. Existing US law will now trigger a cut-off of US funding to UNESCO, resulting in an immediate budget crisis for the agency. The Canadian government quickly criticized the UNESCO vote as undermining the peace process, and signaled it will not be providing any additional funding to make up for US funding cuts.

• Two more ships, including one from Canada – a mini-flotilla – attempted to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, despite a recent international commission that validated Israel’s blockade in light of continued attacks on Israel civilian populations. That such an effort would take place in a week in which hundreds of rockets rained down on Southern Israel reflects an extraordinary degree of hypocrisy on the part of the flotilla organizers. The ships were boarded peacefully today by Israeli naval forces and are being escorted to the Ashdod port, where the aid materials will be unloaded and forwarded to appropriate and recognized aid agencies. Here’s the link to Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird’s statement on this week’s flotilla.

• Leaks from Israeli cabinet discussions about a possible Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities have heightened concerns in many quarters about the potential military and political fallout of such an action. There is increasing focus in international circles about the threat of Iranian nuclear capability. Israel, as a stated prime target, has cause to be looking at its options. It is impossible to gauge whether Israel, by threatening action, hopes to avert the need for it, or whether there is in fact serious consideration of an Israeli strike. Barry Rubin, who will be speaking at an event in Vancouver on Monday, wrote this article in The National Post yesterday.

Parashat Lech Lecha
With this week’s parasha we are introduced to Abraham, the first of the patriarchs within our tradition, and the narrative story of the evolution of the Jewish people begins. The beginning of the parasha describes the family’s migration to Haran. The name of the city in Mesopotamia means “crossroads”, and through the biblical narrative we see that Abraham and the major figures that follow him are spoken to by God at various crossroads in their lives. At each juncture, they had a choice to follow God’s instructions and fulfill some important step of the Israelites' journey into peoplehood – or not. Abraham follows God’s instruction, and moves with his household to Canaan.

We have our own choices to make. At every juncture in our lives we can choose to be part of community or withdraw. We can choose to be proactive in engaging our children in Jewish life, or passively hope they somehow absorb enough to form a strong Jewish identity. We can choose to support those in need around us or we can pass them by, leaving the task to others. Our campaign theme this year, “The more you put into community, the more you get out of it” is all about the choices we make at the many crossroads we come to. This year, choose to do more – it will come back to you in countless ways that will enrich your life.

Shabbat Shalom!

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