Posted: May 30th, 2011 | Author: Jerry Weider | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Last week the Jewish Outreach Institute sponsored a conference called “Judaism 2030″. While much of it was focused on the engagement of the 20-30-40′s cohort, one session was devoted to Jewish Baby Boomers. The organizers of this conference finally gave the JBoomer generation a nod of understanding. At this session Dr. David Elcott and Mr. Stuart Himmelfarb presented. I attended this conference and spoke to many friends and associates about the work that JBoomers is trying to promote. Everyone I spoke with agreed that the Jewish Baby Boomer cohort MUST be engaged for the health and welfare of the Jewish community. Below is an article that Dr. David Elcott and Stuart Hmmelfarb wrote for the conference. Once again, it affirms all of our thoughts.
As the Generational Winds Blow
by Dr. David Elcott and Stuart Himmelfarb
When we look at that chart in the 21st Century, we see a radical shift as the sides have become more even. Our generational pyramid now looks increasingly like a square with large populations in their fifties and sixties near the top, and many more on top of them living beyond their eighties.
In fact, as analysts at Standard & Poor’s have observed, “No other force is likely to shape the future of national economic health, public finances and policy making as the irreversible rate at which the world’s population is aging.”
If Boomers stay engaged in the work of society rather than pursuing traditional retirement plans, if they enter Encore careers in public service or if they offer their talent, experience and financial resources as serious volunteers, we will then be forced to find a way to model something dynamically different and powerful: four active generations working side-by-side both in the work force and in Jewish communal life. The potential benefits of this achievement in the private and non-profit sectors are huge in an age of declining governmental supports, a besieged middle class and the increased demands of an aging population. Conversely, if we fail to address these issues, the result could be generational collisions and a potential collapse at the core of our community.
Given these winds of change, where can we look for solutions and support? Many of the foundations and communal organizations that fund innovation, especially in the Jewish community, are firmly fixated on youth and believe their focus on 20- and 30-somethings alone
In a recent study of over 250 philanthropic funders regarding their programmatic goals, responses clustered around childhood education and a wide range of entitlements for young adults. The only mention of any other age group related to geriatric needs.
And we have comforted ourselves by assuming that when people get older, their young leadership experiences will ensure their continued deep commitment, and that they will invest their financial resources, experience and talent in Jewish communal life.
Yet in a recent study of highly affiliated Jewish Baby Boomers, two-thirds said that if they do not find what they want in the Jewish community, they have every intention of going elsewhere. Rather than reaping the benefits of generations of fidelity and Jewish passion, we may well find ourselves with four generations of highly entitled Jews whose allegiance to the Jewish community will only be as deep as the next meaningful experience offered to them, and whose loyalties might not extend beyond their own, more narrow interests. And instead of intergenerational collaboration, we will have fostered a competitive environment where generational cohorts demand a larger share of ever decreasing entitlements.
The Jewish population is among the oldest of any ethnic or religious group. The evidence we gathered in the national survey of the Jewish community cited above indicates that continued Boomer fidelity to the Jewish people cannot be assumed. Competitive alternative options for Jews in their fifties, sixties and seventies are emerging throughout the country, from the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps to Senior Corps and Executive Service Corps. (For instance, 10% of all AmeriCorps positions are reserved for those over 55.)
We ignore at our peril the implications of Boomers leaving the Jewish scene and the influence of that exit on the generations that follow.
The first Baby Boomers have reached sixty-five years old. The youngest are approaching 50. They are at a pivotal moment as they consider their next steps. What they do and how the Jewish community connects with them has implications across the generational landscape. In fact, the next decades of Boomer behavior may well determine what kind of Jewish community we share and whether it grows stronger or is buffeted by forces beyond our control.
Posted: May 22nd, 2011 | Author: Jerry Weider | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Yoram Samet has written an article in his blog for JVillage. He notes that synagogues and Jewish institutions need to understand that JBoomes are using the internet just as intensely as their younger counterparts, with some differences. His article is below. I think he bolsters the need for JBoomers and our work.
I hope you will learn something from him.
Boomers in the Digital Age
If yours is like most synagogues, many of the active members are in the Boomer age segment. And did you know that the gap in digital usage between teens and Boomers is shrinking? In other words, your Boomer members are using all the digital tools–just like your teen members. In fact, Facebook now ranks as the 3rd most popular website among internet users ages 65 and up.
The following technology-related Boomer facts come courtesy of Jeffrey Cole, of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
- Social networks are of great value to Boomers, their primary use being both educational and the sharing of information. A synagogue should consider being a great portal to all things Jewish and Israel-related for these members. Teens, on the other hand, use social networks as a way to hang out with other teens.
- Boomers are the biggest users of email, while teens are texting. Are you emails linked to your website? Are you writing emails that create interest for readers to link to your website?
- Boomers spend more money than any other group–and they make their purchases online. This is a great opportunity to open shopping to your members. But just having an online marketplace does not guarantee it will work for your synagogue. Find a member with a retail background and see if they would be interested in opening and managing an online store for you. With a member’s commitment and focus on merchandising and promoting, your synagogue could earn substantial revenue from hosting an online Jewish “mall.”
- Boomers are still the heaviest users of print. And as newspapers and magazines get displaced, synagogues have an opportunity to get boomers to get their Jews news and information from you on their tablets.
- While teens spend most of their time on Facebook, Boomers are reaching out to a wider and more varied network. They read something they are interested in and will look up the subject online to learn more. The more you can cater to the Boomer members’ content needs, the more they will value your site and being a member of the congregation.
How are you creating new value for your Boomer members online?
Posted: May 16th, 2011 | Author: Jerry Weider | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Here is an interesting article from the Cleveland Jewish News which confirms everything we have been preaching about JBoomers. Read for yourself.
Jewish agencies seek new ways to connect with boomers
By EILEEN BEAL
Published: Friday, February 25, 2011 1:06 AM EST
Despite what many think, volunteers are more than just unpaid labor. “They help grow a successful organization,” says The Mandel Jewish Community Center’s Deborah Bobrow, who recruits and works with the volunteers responsible for the highly popular annual Jewish film festival.
But Jewish baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1963 – are harder to attract to Jewish community organizations than their parents and grandparents. Why? Because boomer Jews are the first generation of American-born Jews to be able to look outside the Jewish community for volunteer opportunities.
Consequently, Jewish charities and philanthropic organizations are facing stiff competition for them. “Today, there are no barriers to where people can volunteer,” says Daniel Blain, senior vice president at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. “Many organizations in the general community see the value of engaging Jewish volunteers and donors because of their leadership skills as well as their generosity.”
Stuart Sharpe, president of Regional Reps, a local media company, and board president of the Hebrew Free Loan Association, notes that to attract volunteers, “the Jewish community’s organizations are going to have to work harder, be more visible, and operate in ways that give volunteers what they want.”
What do boomers want?
Boomers are looking to get fulfillment from their volunteer work in multiple ways. According to volunteer coordinators interviewed for this article and the recently published “Baby Boomers, Public Service and Minority Communities: A case study of the Jewish Community in the United States,” published by the Research Center for Leadership in Action and the Berman Jewish Policy Archives, altruism is just one part of the equation.
“They want relationships and friendships that go beyond the volunteer job,” says Sandra Lusher-Waterhouse, volunteer manager at Jewish Family Service Association.
They want “varied, enriching, diverse, interesting and challenging experiences,” says the JCC’s Bobrow.
They want “volunteer positions that make sense to them and use their skills or build upon their interests,” says Brett Katz, director of volunteer services at Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau.
And they are not afraid to move around until they find the most satisfying opportunity, says Federation’s Blain.
“I’ve been volunteering at Bellefaire for a long time, but it was board and committee work and strategic planning,” says Jan Stern of Chagrin Falls. “That was satisfying, but I’d taught when my kids were young, and when I found out about a position at Monarch School working with kindergarten kids, I said, ‘Great, that’s what I want to do.’” She’s been volunteering every Monday at the school since 2006.
Boomers want to network while volunteering.
“When I moved back to Cleveland, I got involved volunteering with the Hebrew Free Loan Association,” says Kevin S. Adelstein, director of advertising sales at Cleveland.com. “It gave me a chance to meet people and, when I went on the board, it really helped me apply and sharpen my leadership and management skills. So, in a sense, it helped me network for my professional career, but I’d never have gotten involved – given up my valuable family time – if I hadn’t believed in what the organization does and that my volunteering was giving back to the community.”
They want flexibility.
“They may be juggling busy schedules or still working,” explains Vicki Snyder, director of volunteer services at Menorah Park Center for Senior Living.
“I wanted to volunteer at Menorah Park, but I’m a photographer, and half my work is in New York City and the rest is all over the rest of the U.S.,” says David Joseph of Pepper Pike. “I needed a schedule that allowed me to come and go when needed.” He’s now volunteering Mondays and Fridays in the kitchen. “I cook; I wash dishes. I do whatever’s needed.”
Flies in the ointment
As the American Jewish communities’ philanthropic and service organizations have grown and evolved, many have hired staff and become more professionalized. As a consequence, notes the baby boomers’ report, leadership at some Jewish agencies has become ambivalent about where volunteers fit in and about the benefits to the organization of restructuring organizational procedures and hierarchy to meet the wants and expectations of boomers.
Among issues cited in the report include the hidden costs associated with integrating and supervising volunteers; agencies’ need for consistently available volunteers, especially daytime volunteers; and the blurring of the lines between the professional and the volunteer, which can create legal and/or financial liabilities.
“We ignore the issue at our peril,” notes Regional Reps’ Sharpe.
Jewish organizations that rely on volunteers are facing even more challenges. A significant percentage of Jewish boomers are unaffiliated with a synagogue or other community institution or organization.
“That means Jewish organizations can’t count on loyalty as being the driver for involvement,” Blain says. At the very time when agencies’ need for volunteers is skyrocketing due to the poor economy, the toll it has taken on families, and the aging of the population, the situation organizations are finding themselves in is challenging.
Meeting the challenge
Local social service and charitable organizations are well aware of the unique situation they are facing.
To make volunteering more attractive and accessible, they are ensuring it’s as easy as possible for boomers – and all Jews – to find out who, where and what they are. And whether the organization is big or small, word-of-mouth is the biggest recruitment tool.
“One day a friend, Marcia Waxman, asked me about helping deliver food for Chabad House. Now I’m volunteering there at least once a month,” says Harriet Spiegel Piccione.
Most organizations have websites – “Ours was constructed by younger members,” admits Sharpe with a chuckle – and post volunteer opportunities there. They also make good use of email. “You can reach a huge number of people without spending a lot of money or time,” says Snyder.
In addition, organizations and agencies post opportunities on Federation’s Jewish Volunteer Network page and at volunteer hubs, such as Business Volunteers Unlimited, Greater Cleveland Volunteers, and Volunteer Match (see box). They advertise positions in papers the Jewish community reads. “We (volunteer-dependant organizations) are doing everything we can to reach out to the community,” says Diane Weiner, volunteer manager at Montefiore.
Since boomers are often over-committed – holding down a full-time job, caring for aging parents, and perhaps lending a hand with their grandchildren – many agencies schedule short-term projects, some of which can be completed in a day or evening. “For many, these kinds of projects are the only way they can volunteer,” says Leslye Arian, director of volunteers at National Council of Jewish Women, Cleveland Section.
“The only day I have off is Friday,” says Joanne Grossberg, admissions and marketing director at R.H. Myers Apartments. “So when I joined NCJW and found out they were scheduling done-in-a-day projects on my day off, it meant I could actually get involved.”
Short-term projects don’t just play to volunteers’ time constraints, strengths and interests; they plant seeds for future volunteering. “When you have compelling and engaging projects – even just daylong projects – you are creating compelled and engaged volunteers,” says Debra Posner, chief of marketing at The Mandel Jewish Community Center.
Since volunteers often have organizational and management skills, agencies tap their expertise to not only staff programs, but to create them. “Keeping ourselves open to new ideas from volunteers keeps us open to growth, too,” notes Arian.
Rise of the ‘super vol’
For highly trained boomers who want to use their professional expertise for tsedakah, some agencies and organizations create “super vol” opportunities – often one-of-a-kind projects – that tap their expertise. For example, says Blain, “We have volunteers managing significant portfolios related to their professional skills.”
But there is room for everybody, no matter what the skill set. “It’s hard to think of a situation where we wouldn’t be able to use a volunteer’s expertise,” says The Agnon School’s director of development Laura Leventhal.
Organizations also are working more closely to maximize not only their volunteers’ impact on the community but also their relationship with other organizations. Citing Operation Warm-Up, a clothing drive coordinated by Federation’s Jewish Volunteer Network and the National Council of Women, Arian says these kinds of collaborations are a win-win for everyone because “they better-use community resources.”
And to ensure successful placement of volunteers, most coordinators say they do extensive interviews (one coordinator called it “chatterviewing”), handbook reviews, and orientations that often mimic those done with paid staff. Organizations that have a large volunteer corps provide significant volunteer in-service training, too.
Still, notes Rabbi Simcha Dessler, educational director at The Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, finding the right fit “often requires a healthy dose of diplomacy to make things work.”
Support program offers help
One thing holding back many boomers from volunteering is the economic downturn’s impact on their current earnings and retirement savings. Many who would have jumped full time into volunteering now must work full time – or find new employment – to pay bills and repair the hit to their retirement savings.
The need to connect with the 9-to-5 world is the reason Federation and the Jewish Family Service Association established the Jewish Community Employment-Related Support Program. Since its inception, the program has served more than 750 community members – many of them boomers.
For information on the program, visit http://tinyurl.com/ 4ggzk3r, then click on “Employment-Related Support Program.”
Where to look for boomer-friendly volunteer opportunities
Looking for a place to volunteer? Check with volunteer coordinators at your synagogue or at local service agencies and organizations. Here are a few that post volunteer opportunities on their websites:
• Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Jewish Volunteer Network, www.jewishcleveland.org/volunteer
• Business Volunteers Unlimited, www.businessvolunteers.org/volunteer-center.aspx
• Greater Cleveland Volunteers, www.greaterclevelandvolunteers.org
• Volunteer Match, www.volunteermatch.org
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