Last spring, community leaders from the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and the Jewish Community Foundation began a community visioning project that was soon dubbed “2020 and Beyond: Reimagining Jewish Life in Southern Arizona.” After initial stages that included hiring an outside consultant and holding meetings with stakeholder groups and broader focus groups, the process is now at a crucial stage: an online survey now open at www.jewmatter.com that gives all members of the Southern Arizona Jewish community the chance to make their voices heard.
“This is a vital opportunity to take a serious look at the strengths and challenges facing our community. Together, the agencies, synagogues, donors, lay leaders, and professionals across our community are deeply committed to formulating a holistic, cohesive plan to enrich, expand, and animate Jewish life for this generation and generations to come,” says Graham Hoffman, president and CEO of the Foundation and incoming president and CEO of the Federation.
Hoffman is the senior project lead for 2020 & Beyond.
“One of the major focuses of this study is to hear the viewpoints of everyone in our community — from those at the center to those at the furthest periphery,” says Hoffman. “This is our chance to collect insights so that we can make data-driven decisions for the future, and the data we seek comes from every corner of Jewish life.”
Building on the past
The 2020 & Beyond project is the first widespread community research project since JFSA President and CEO Stuart Mellan and then-JFSA Chairman Bruce Ash commissioned a 2002 population study, conducted by demographer Ira Sheskin.
“The 2002 population study was a landmark for our community. It provided us with insights into demographic trends and allowed us to begin to take a data-driven approach,” says Mellan. “I was thrilled to be a part of the initiation of the 2020 & Beyond process. I feel that these studies are invaluable for understanding and enriching our offerings.”
The 2002 study was a full demographic survey, conducted at a time when most people still had landline telephones. For the new study, which delves into community needs, desires, and identities, “it’s not as important to count people — it’s more important to make people count,” says Shelly Silverman, a member of the 2020 & Beyond steering committee and immediate past president of the Federation.
A new approach
Leaders of the Southern Arizona Jewish community began discussing a new planning process more than two years ago, says Silverman. It was briefly put on hold as Hoffman took the reins at the JCF in September 2018. In May, a steering committee of professionals and lay leaders, including the JCF and JFSA board chairs, Jeff Katz and Deborah Oseran, respectively, created a list of questions and hypotheses to present to potential consulting firms. These included “How can we best engage the next generation in Jewish life?” and “How can we best ensure meaningful Jewish education in the Jewish community?”
The steering committee interviewed and assessed proposals from many consulting groups before hiring Rosov Consulting LLC. It was an exhaustive search, says Mellan, and there was tremendous confidence in the selection of Rosov, which has worked with synagogues, Jewish federations, and community foundations in Cincinnati, Montreal, and Louisville, Kentucky, among others.
The 2020 & Beyond project, notes Mellan, is fully funded by a small group of key donors who understand the importance of the strategic planning process.
“The professionals at Rosov immediately stood out,” says Anne Hameroff, incoming JCF board chair and steering committee member. “They have conducted studies in North America and Israel that are similar to ours and can provide expertise and analysis that will really help us move forward.”
“Our work with the Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona has several components. First and foremost, we have been asked to help communal leadership come to better know and understand the needs of community members … primarily regarding their connection to or dislocation from the Jewish community as well as how the community can best provide for and support those at risk and in need,” says Wendy Rosov, Ph.D., founder and principal of Rosov Consulting.
“We have spent many hours talking with lay and professional leaders of nearly every Jewish communal organization in Southern Arizona as well as having conducted a series of intensive focus groups with individuals representing all walks of Jewish life in Southern Arizona. From all that we have learned these past six-plus months, we have crafted what is called a needs assessment survey,” which is now available for community participation, says Rosov.
Together with Federation and Foundation staff, Rosov’s team will combine the survey results with data from the focus groups and community conversations to draft “a communal vision and preliminary plan for the enhancement of Jewish life in Southern Arizona,” says Rosov, adding that the vision and plan “will be shared in a series of community-wide convenings scheduled for later this spring.”
“We have pored over this survey,” says Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida, Ph.D., JFSA vice president, planning and community engagement. “Our work has been to incorporate all of the feedback received so far to create a survey that will provide us with data that is actionable to, among other things, improve our engagement offerings.”
“The second component of our work with the community is a consultation on possible models for increasing philanthropic investment in Jewish life in Southern Arizona. We will be bringing successful models from both inside and outside the Jewish world for consideration,” says Rosov.
The Next Step: Take the survey
The most comprehensive and essential step along the timeline is the survey. The framers of this project intend for 1,000 or more Southern Arizona Jewish community members to participate.
Along with questions assessing interest in typical Jewish activities, such as holiday celebrations or travel to Israel, the survey also asks about topics such as sports, arts and culture, and environmental issues. Assessing possible barriers to participation, choices include cost, geographic location, and events being either “not appealing enough,” “too serious,” or “not serious enough about Jewish content,” among others.
Hoffman urges everyone to take the survey, including those who may not identify as Jewish themselves but who are connected with or live in a household with Jewish members. (In 2002, the demographic survey found that 78% of the people living in Jewish households in Tucson were Jewish.)
“Please take the time,” Hoffman says. “We need your views.”
The results of the survey will shape and inform the choices made by all of the agencies in Jewish community moving forward. But community action plans will remain open to future modification.
“We see how fast the world is changing,” says Mellan, referencing the old adage that “nothing is permanent except change.”
“Our Federation and our Foundation and all of our community partners understand it’s important to be out in front, and adjust to our changing world,” he says.
The survey will remain open through March 16 at www.jewmatter.com. Community members are encouraged to share the link with their friends — especially those who may be less connected to the local Jewish community.
Everyone who completes the survey can enter a drawing to win a gift card.
For more information, contact Maya Horowitz at [email protected] or 647-8433.