The group was set up “as a venue for lay leaders and professionals from around the U.S. to grapple with the challenges and opportunities facing the Jewish world, establish priorities for Federations’ work, monitor and report on the results of our global investments, and continuously build and improve the work that we do on behalf of Jewish communities around the U.S.”
The questions asked were: What do you think are the important Jewish issues that could be significantly influenced by philanthropic intervention if the Jewish community could devote sufficient resources on a large scale? What types of interventions would be most effective?
It is inspiring, in this age of fragmentation, to see that the Federation system – the mechanism through which the community articulates and acts upon its shared values – is not only continuing strong, but also aggregating and planning its activities together in an even more concerted way. The Global Planning Table represents an assertion of the meaning of community and peoplehood in the face of challenges to those very ideals, and is a source of optimism that these core and essential ideas of what it has meant to be Jewish for so very long are still valued.
It seems that every assumption under which Federation operated for so long and so successfully is now called into question. Contemporary Jewish life is seeing a dramatic decline not only of the “core,” but of the very idea of “core.” Federated philanthropy has given way overwhelmingly to private and idiosyncratic giving; denominations and major institutions struggle, while new mechanisms for community organizing and local or “networked” participation in Jewish life arise; ideas that defined Jewish life for over a generation, like “continuity” and “peoplehood” are dismissed as antiquated buzzwords and relics of an almost pre-modern past.