JFSA leaders embrace LEAF, ‘Tzedakah Tree’

In response to unprecedented requests for economic assistance from Jewish Tucsonans, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona has launched the Local Emergency Assistance Fund to provide assistance with housing costs, food, job placement and more. While pledges to the Federation campaign traditionally are unrestricted, the Federation board is allowing those who are willing to increase their support over the previous year, to designate a portion of that increased commitment to the LEAF campaign.

To educate the community about this effort, the Federation is recognizing donors through a Tzedakah (charity) Tree that campaign organizers will circulate throughout the campaign. Each leaf on the tree will carry the name of a family or individual who increased their federation support this year and participated in the LEAF effort.

“There are many Jews right here in our community in desperate need and the request for assistance has increased fourfold since 2008. Over 800 families, representing every zip code in our region, received case management assistance due to financial distress and 250 of them received emergency cash grants from Jewish Family & Children’s Services, with funding coming fully from the Federation,” said Federation President and CEO Stuart Mellan.

At the JFSA Leadership Campaign Summit, held at Hacienda del Sol on Oct. 20 and 21, guest speaker Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld, named by Newsweek as one of America’s “50 most influential rabbis,” spoke to over 100 Jewish community leaders, asking them to “embrace the spirit of this campaign and set a tone for the rest of the community. Change begins with you.”

In defiance of expectations during this difficult economic period, virtually all of the community leaders in attendance increased their annual support, designating a portion of their increased commitment to the LEAF campaign and adding their names to the Tzedakah Tree, raising $15,787 for LEAF and over $200,000 for unrestricted needs. The Federation is seeking 400 contributors at $180 or more to approach the goal of $75,000 for LEAF during the 2011 Campaign.