We’re inching up to the start of the secular new year, so let the reflections and resolutions begin! As for me, I’m looking back on 2018 with an eye towards how I have changed. Here are some questions I’ve reflected on for the past year.
Who Did I Learn From?
Mr. Rogers was my rebbe in 2018. This remarkable man, who was literally my neighbor when I grew up in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill, reminded me that there is still good in the world, that we have to look for it, celebrate it and create more of it. In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting, Mr. Rogers’ outlook sustained my spirit and refocused me on what matters. Returning to Pittsburgh several weeks after the tragedy, I could see that what endures are human relationships and acts of kindness. The simplicity and truth of Mr. Roger’s message is profound. By the way, if you haven’t yet seen the documentary film, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, about the life of Fred Rogers, don’t miss it.
How Have I Changed?
I’ve become much more realistic about what I can and cannot change. This year I will spend less time on the latter. I’m becoming more comfortable with the fact that I can’t make everyone happy all the time. Living with this truth and refocusing my energy on what is possible is a big change for me.
What Delighted Me?
What truly delights me is the Federation professional team. Together we’ve come through a year of inward-looking analysis and discussion through The Front Porch. We’ve learned how to live with uncertainty about where The Front Porch initiative would take us. Now, with firm vision of where the community needs to go, and the role that Federation plays in Jewish Atlanta, we are feeling optimistic and more focused about our work. We’ve looked at our internal organizational structure and created new ways facilitate cross-team collaboration. Job descriptions have been rewritten to reflect the priorities of our five impact areas: Inspiring More Jewish Journeys; Rising Up Higher to Strengthen Ourselves and Our World; Making More Jewish Places; Moving to Global Jewish Peoplehood; and Creating Radically Welcoming Spaces. We’re primed and ready for a productive 2019.
What’s the Most Important Conversation I Had?
After my daughter Sasha’s bat mitzvah in November we sat down together and had a conversation about tzedakah (righteous giving). I suggested that Sasha set aside 10% of the money she received for her bat mitzvah for personal giving. Sasha knows that I’ve been a fundraising professional for much of my life, and she certainly understands how our family prioritizes tzedakah and mitzvot, but nevertheless this was a complex conversation. Ultimately, we decided to open a Donor-Advised Fund at Federation in Sasha’s name. She’ll make her own decisions about where she wants to direct her giving. It will be interesting to see how it empowers her to lead a life of philanthropy.
Did I Step Out of My Comfort Zone?
I stepped out of my comfort zone this year asking for bigger gifts from our donors with the capacity to make big things happen. It meant cultivating a personal mindset to be unafraid. Asking for money is hard. Asking people to stretch for opportunities that excite them and reflect their priorities can be thrilling. It meant listening deeply to what donors had to say and being ready to show them the potential impact and relevance of their gift. Many of these solicitations broke new ground for me and for the donor, and they always deepened relationships.