CAJE honors past presidents, discusses future


A special presentation honoring past board presidents and a discussion of the challenges facing Jewish organizations were among the highlights of the Central Agency for Jewish Education’s (CAJE) 2009 Annual Meeting on June 15.

Jewish Federation of St. Louis President Sheila Greenbaum spoke about some of the difficulties with which non-profits are presently grappling.

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“One of the things that I’ve learned over the past two years is that what is going on in our community not only parallels what is going on nationally but really what is going on in world Jewry,” she said.

However, she was quick to point out that special challenges exist on the local level as well. Greenbaum said that CAJE, like other agencies, must remain aware of distinct issues in Jewish demographic trends that show St. Louis’s Jewish community is losing population.

Greenbaum felt that many organizations would benefit from a “SWOT” analysis that analyzes strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats similar to the one CAJE went through during its own strategic planning process. She said the St. Louis Jewish community possesses all of these attributes.

“One of the weaknesses that I believe we continue to have is that we have agencies that… still believe that they are going to pick their heads up out of the sand and everything is going to be like it was,” she said. “Statistics, smart people and everything else tell us that the philanthropic landscape has been affected and will be affected for many years to come no matter how fast we see a turnaround.”

She said that in the future organizations in the Jewish community would have to find new methods for bringing about results.

“We have opportunities to cooperate, to collaborate and in some cases, to merge so that our institutions come out stronger and ultimately our community comes out stronger,” she said. “We have many challenges. Whatever we do, we are going to end up doing it with less money and right now we’re doing it with less people.”

Greenbaum also praised CAJE specifically for an ability to “deliver real value” to those it serves, an especially important attribute in an age where donors increasingly seem to favor direct giving and are less inclined to give gifts to umbrella organizations.

“I think it’s a matter of continuing to do it and telling people about it,” she said. “I think your ability to set standards, to provide oversight, to come up with innovation and to provide services that enable other institutions to save money because they don’t have to replicate them are things you can draw on.”

CAJE Board President Dr. Jay Sosna spoke on traits the most effective private sector CEOs possess including a focus on efficiency and an attention to detail leading to a concentration on incremental change.

“I think this is what we’ve tried to do at CAJE,” he said. “We’ve tried to build on our past accomplishments, to increase our efficiency, to regularly review our programs and activities and make the incremental changes necessary for improvement. I think this is one of the reason why we really wanted to recognize our past presidents for their accomplishments because as CAJE strives to be a better and better force for Jewish education in St. Louis, we do this by building on our previous leadership.”

Several of the former presidents were on hand to receive gifts from the organization and hear a recitation of some of the accomplishments of their terms in office by executive director Sonia Dobinsky.

“There is a Yiddish proverb that says, ‘If you can’t control the wind, then you can adjust your sails,'” she said. “I’m fortunate to have a great crew with me to adjust our sails to deal with all the new realities.”

The board also installed new directors. Those named included Susan Bosse, Sue Lesser, Kevin Fine, Rachel Guller, Sue Matlof, Sima Oberlander and Rabbi Hyim Shafner.

Patricia L. Cohen, Paul Goldblum and Dr. Gary Wasserman were elected for a second three-year term.

Directors who were thanked for their service and will be leaving the board included: Debbie Dalin, Kristi Meyers Gallup, Martha Ginsburg, Rachel Katzman, Debbie Lefton, Michelle Rubin, and Jane Roodman Weiss.