Getting to Know Jews: SVYAD
Posted by lchaimlover on August 13, 2007
Now that I have kvetched and complained about us youngins getting involved, I am going to start being proactive. Each week Oy Bay will feature a series called “Getting to know Jews” where we will highlight a young adult member of the Jewish community and the organization they represent. As this week is SVYAD’s monthly Connect, I thought it appropriate that we start there.
Name: Jonathan Berg
Position: Young Adults Division (SVYAD) and Leadership Director
Organization: Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley
Mission: The Mission of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley to raise and to allocate funds needed to maintain and strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish community and Jewish life, and to work toward meeting the needs and concerns of the Jewish community locally, in the United States, in Israel and throughout the Diaspora and to develop leadership.
In fulfilling its purposes and programs, the Federation embodies a primary commitment to Klal Yisrael (the responsibility of each Jew for another), to Tikun Olam (the process of repairing the world), and to the centrality of Israel to the Jewish people.
What makes your organization unique? The Jewish Federation is basically the Jewish United Way. We support local Jewish agencies, as well as overseas Jewish communities, through a combination of fiscal allocations and community building. The Young Adults Division seeks to do these things within the 21 to 45 year old community, providing a variety of programming in an effort to connect this generation to the community as a whole.
What challenges does your organization face? The biggest challenge we face is really apathy. Too many Jews, especially those in my generation, feel as though the community simply exists in a vacuum, and does not need to be supported. In reality, though, the Jewish community exists from the generosity of those who feel tzedakah is still central to being Jewish. Our challenge is going to be trying to reach out to the current generation so that our community will still exist for our children and grandchildren.
How often do you have programs: We (the Young Adults Division) typically run two to three programs a month, each with a different target group (though some overlap). These range from Silicon Valley Connect, our monthly networking evening at a local bar or restaurant, to sporting events, Shabbat dinners, social action programs, and, of course, donor themed events.
What do you think you contribute to the Jewish community? Besides our financial allocations which go to support local agencies from synagogues to Hillel, Jewish Family Services, the JCC and more, Federation provides services ranging from “how to run a campaign” to event publicity to professional groups based on networking. Furthermore, the Young Adults Division specifically tries to provide a community for a largely unaffiliated group, the 21 to 45 year olds.
Best program for Young Adults? It really depends on what you are looking for. I would say the best first program to attend would be a Connect program, as we attract a large group of young adults from across the religious, professional, and age spectrum. You will always be able to meet and connect with someone new and interesting.
What is your personal favorite program? I personally am a big fan of some of our minimum gift donor appreciation events. Last spring, we had a chocolate and wine reception at Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory in Berkeley with the East Bay Young Leadership Division. More than 80 participants received private tours of the factory, great food, truffle making lessons, and listened to a great speaker discuss his life-changing experience on a Federation funded trip to Ethiopia. As a sneak peak into this year, we are planning a wine tasting program for fall which should not be missed!
Average Cost of programs? Most programs are under $20, with the others ranging from free social action events to a $200 ski trip weekend.
What do you consider the most important thing you do? I was having dinner with a new donor a few weeks ago, and he thanked me for asking him to give a gift to Federation. I asked him why he was thanking me, and he said, “Because you are helping me to do a mitzvah.” This is the most important thing I do. I am a mitzvah enabler. I take great pride in helping to connect Jews to the community to the point that they take it upon themselves to support it. We do amazing work here, and I hope that everyone will give me a chance to help you do a mitzvah over the next year or two.
Anything you want to add? I would like to take a moment to speak briefly about something most young adults are very uncomfortable with: fundraising. Fundraising is one of our primary focuses here at Federation, and the SVYAD community is no exception. Without the money that Federation provides, the Jewish community in Silicon Valley (not to mention Jewish communities in Israel and throughout the Diaspora) would be greatly hurt. Will we ask you for a donation when you walk in the door to your first Connect event? No. That would be silly. However, it is our hope that you will give us the opportunity to show you the valuable work that Federation does, and that seeing what fantastic things your donation would make possible, that you would want to be a donor. Please ask me any questions you might have, or ask any of my amazing SVYAD Board members. We all believe in what we do here, and we know that you will too.