Author: Mala Blomquist

(Jewish News) In the spring of 2021, the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix and the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix announced plans to integrate the two organizations into a single operating entity, now called the Center for Jewish Philanthropy of Greater Phoenix (CJP).

There was much work going on behind the scenes prior to, and since, that announcement in 2021. “After multiple conversations among the Federation and Foundation boards, we formed a working committee of members from both boards and a few community lay leaders,” said Jonathan Hoffer, who led the task force on the project and has served on the two organizations’ boards. “At the conclusion of the process, there was unanimous support to bring both organizations together.”

The organizations then consulted with communities across the country where the Foundation and Federation had integrated. The CJP most closely modeled themselves after JewishColumbus in Columbus, Ohio. The CJP hired the same consultant, David Kaplan, used in Ohio and implemented the same legal structure. While the Federation and Foundation will still exist for legal purposes, the CJP was created as a management organization to support the work on behalf of these two legacy organizations.

“I don’t want this new organization to be completely unrecognizable from what we’ve been in the past because both organizations have made significant, valuable contributions to this community,” said Richard Kasper, interim CEO of the Center for Jewish Philanthropy of Greater Phoenix. “But I do want to see it evolve into something that is more dynamic, more engaging and more open to the community. For too long, both organizations have suffered from the perception that they were only for insiders and that is not who we intend to be. We want this to be an organization that serves the entire Jewish community.”

By consolidating, CJP has access to valuable resources, not just from a fiscal standpoint, but also in regard to increased knowledge, community relationships and experience, which creates a stronger infrastructure and allows CJP to serve the community in new and meaningful ways, stated Kasper.

“Their [the Federation and Foundation] business models are different but very complementary and they really do belong together under one roof,” said Hoffer. “A lot of energy was going into the same process for two different organizations. By bringing those resources together, we can cut that work in half and redeploy those resources of people and money to make a larger impact in the community. The reality is we feel like one plus one will equal three.”

Kasper agrees that the two Jewish philanthropic organizations were serving the same Jewish community in different ways. It bothered him that the community perceived both as financial institutions.

“Our value has always been measured too much in terms of dollars and cents — I cannot overstate the importance of the dollars and cents, it is critical to what we do — but the money is not what we do; it is a tool that facilitates what we do,” said Kasper. “We support a Jewish community. Both its existing infrastructure and we help it make plans to grow to be a thriving community where Jewish people want to live and want to engage with one another and have those opportunities. By coming together, we believe that we will be better able to focus on those things and get those things done.”

In addition to the new name, the CJP also has a new logo. The three letters, CJP, are included within the abstract curves and meant to resemble a menorah and the flame. Kasper said that they have committed to doing things differently and wanted a logo to represent that.

To contribute to the community, CJP plans to identify and implement pathways for people to get engaged in the Jewish community as individuals depending on where they are in their life cycle. CJP is also creating opportunities for leadership development, not just within CJP, but for the entire Jewish community — identifying and developing the people who will become future leaders of the community.

“I am honored to be chosen to lead the initial effort to bring these two important organizations and two boards together,” said Bob Silver, board chair. One of the founding tenets of the CJP is to create a new organization that can deliver better outcomes for all aspects of the greater Phoenix Jewish community. “In order to do that, we need to recruit new board members that reflect the diversity of Jewish life in our community. We need fresh voices and perspectives that have a passion and desire to help the CJP create a vision and mission that resonates with all parts of Jewish life in Phoenix and beyond.”

Another aspiration of the new entity is to make the community more cohesive by reaching out to and including people who identify as Jewish, but aren’t engaged with any official Jewish organization, synagogue or service. According to Arizona State University’s 2019 population study, that could be as many as 80% of Jews in the Greater Phoenix area.

CJP is also uniquely positioned to assist the community in the department of Jewish communal security. “We can bring resources to the table that most smaller organizations — whether it’s a social services agency, an educational institution, synagogue, day school — are not going to have access to in the same way,” said Kasper. “And that’s both a service to the organization and a service to donors in the community so that their contributions can be utilized in ways that are most meaningful.”

Donors will now be able to go to one organization that will offer a “full menu” of options that best fit their goals in serving the community. “Whether that donor wants to open a donor advised fund or if they’re interested solely in making an annual campaign gift to the Federation side. We can listen to them and accommodate and assist them in finding the right fit to have an impact on the community,” said Hoffer. “Whatever the donor’s interests are, we can serve them within the new entity.”

Kasper admitted that one of the things he found most enjoyable when he was only leading the Foundation was the opportunity to sit down with a donor who said, “I have ‘X’ amount of dollars and these are the things I care about; how do I do it?” “Being able to make that connection for that donor so that they can experience the joy of making something happen that wasn’t happening before is phenomenal,” said Kasper. Alternatively, there are times when someone has an idea for something but can’t find the funds. “Being able to connect that idea or that person to the resources they need to move forward. I love that,” said Kasper. “To me, that’s where the fun is in this work.

“What it always comes back to is that we exist to serve the community.”

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