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TODAY in the Jewish World:

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


July 14, 2017  RSS feed

Text: T T T

Looking ahead, looking inward

Emilie Socash

In my world, the summer months present a time to put my finger on the “reset” button. Over the yawning expanses of afternoon rains and a slower pace in general, this season is when the opportunity presents to begin consideration of what the year ahead will look like. Working in the Jewish community, where most of our nonprofit organizations have a new fiscal year start date of July 1, but a true “get moving” start date of Rosh Hashanah, I find this window of time particularly meaningful in considering all that can be in the next 12 months and beyond.

Over the past few weeks, the final results of the recent demographic study have been trickling into my inbox. And in each set of data, a rich composite of questions presents.

A few interesting elements:

• The top giving priority is providing Jewish education for children, with 2/3 of respondents who give to the Federation noting this as “very important.” In our community this means religious school, PJ Library, summer camps, and family programming. We have room to do more.

• One-fourth of households surveyed donated to the Federation in the last year, while one-third of households donated to another Jewish organization. Two-thirds of households surveyed donated to a non-Jewish charity in the last year. Our community is generous overall, but further exploration is needed to connect more community members with our organizations’ mission so that we can do even more for more people.

One-third of our households have a member who has been to Israel. A visit to Israel is the best way to secure connection to the Jewish community; our synagogue missions, programs like our own Federation Fellows, March of the Living, Birthright, and other organized people-to-people experiences must be prioritized.

A little over one-third of our community’s children attend a formal Jewish education program, mostly from Conservative households. This figure is slightly less than our 1994 data, but begs the question: How can we engage the full spectrum of our community in a learning model that works for the modern family?

When asked about their perception of our community organizations, at least 84 percent of all respondents ranked our organizations as “good” or “excellent.” The range spread from the Federation at 84 percent all they way up to our Florida Holocaust Museum ranking a whopping 96 percent.

And as for our population: in our Pinellas and Pasco County region, we have 18,000 Jewish households, housing 36,600 people, of whom 76 percent are Jewish (meaning, our regional population is 27,900). Comparing this to our 1994 data, this is an increase of 18 percent in the total number of households and a negligible change to the number of Jewish individuals.

And the data goes on, for about 2,000 printed pages!

What do we make of all of this? It’s complex, and it’s a bit unwieldy, but it is at the core informative. From where I sit, it makes me realize that our community is at the ready for a vision that encompasses the next several years … and perhaps the next decade. Collaboratively and collectively, we are poised to consider what direction our community can and will take.

Ideas abound, and need only prioritization and a deadline to become reality.

• We can build a vibrant leadership structure that represents both our north and our south geographic pockets of community.

• We can seek to offer programs and education in a distributed space model at existing Jewish facilities across both counties.

• We can build our community’s financial reserves to ensure an unshakeable future. We can energize and activate a collective temple leadership voice. We can consider where we’d like our centers to be created, places where we gather, learn, and grow.

• We can look to educate in new ways: after school or in vibrant virtual cooperatives.

• We can place our committed community members into the national spotlight for roles with the Jewish Agency for Israel, the National Young Leadership Cabinet, and many others.

• We can seek to create a Jewish community that is the model for others in terms of its connectedness, its collaboration, and its welcoming.

How do we get there? I’m fond of a quote by Einstein that goes something like “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” Putting a positive spin on this, I’d recraft it into something akin to “We cannot create a new future using the thinking that got us to the present.”

This feels particularly timely as I look at the age breakdown of the study: 21 percent of our community fall into the 18-49 age range, a time of life in which significant bonds with the Jewish community can form. An additional 9 percent of our community fall into the 17-and-under age range, meaning that about a third of our community have lives filled with raising children, getting married, attending college, moving up professionally, and generally shaping their lives. And it means that two-thirds of our community are living through phases of life that are marked by having their children attend college, marry, have grandchildren, and even enjoy retirement.

Every time of life presents the opportunity to shape connections with our community, and I know we’re steadily creating a Jewish future in our region that is replete with the opportunities to serve every age and stage. To that end, I invite you to be on the watch for your invitation to one of the community town-hall sessions that will reveal the entirety of the survey data as well as let your voice be heard as we shape the years to come!

If you’d be interested in taking on a role as a volunteer participant in our strategic visioning process or program formulation, please reach me directly at or 727-333-3101.

Liked it? Loathed it? Want to react? I would welcome your feedback and can be reached at

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