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Marsha’s Musings – January Edition

Marsha Hurwitz, JEWISHcolorado Interim CEOCreating Our Personal Jewish Journey, together.

“Life is a journey not a destination” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thirty years ago this month, December 1987, more than 250,000 people marched on Washington in an unprecedented display of solidarity with Soviet Jewry. Living in Richmond, VA and working for their Jewish Federation we bussed over 1200 community members; including my mom, my sisters and my kids in strollers – and together, a quarter of a million strong we proclaimed, “Let Our People Go”.

Freedom Sunday marked a turning point for the movement. Jewish organizations came together—to speak with a unified voice, to show our true strength as a community. There was a shared sense of purpose among the Jewish people and it awakened the global Jewish consciousness to the true meaning of “Never Again”.

Many believe the Soviet Jewry movement embodied so many of the qualities—passion, activism and strength of the collective—we need today to address the challenges our communities face.

Certainly our Jewish communities today and the world we live in are vastly different than they were 30 years ago. Consider a few statistics:

  • 312%: the estimated % of growth in Colorado’s Jewish population in the past 30 years.
  • 80%: the % of non-Orthodox Jews marrying people of other faiths and customs.
  • 22%: the % of Jews who do not affiliate with the religion itself. This rises to 32% for millennials.
  • 20%: the % of Jews living with disabilities.

Socrates once said: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy on building the new not fighting the old.”

With that as our filter, what role are we playing in building a community that does not resist changes – rather embraces, anticipates and adapts them?

With that as our filter, what role are we playing to ensure we bring the same passion, activism and collectivity to addressing today’s challenges facing our communities, our country and our world, as the Soviet Jewry movement of three decades ago?

Here at JEWISHcolorado we are building a welcoming, transparent, collaborative and vibrant Jewish community; we understand that no one organization can create the kind of change we all describe in our mission statements. More and more, we must design ways to collaborate, coordinate, innovate and share resources to convert challenges into opportunities.

We must support our children’s Jewish journeys by bringing PJ Library into more homes, partnering with our Jewish preschools, religious schools, and day schools to increase enrollment and exposing more teens to summer camps, youth groups and Israel experiences. We must engage our young leaders by providing Jewish learning and leadership opportunities.

As history has demonstrated, armed with values, knowledge, tradition, community, and connection to Israel, we are preparing a generation of change makers to go out into the broader world and have impact – make a difference – this is our collective responsibility.

Wishing everyone a year filled with happiness.


Marsha Hurwitz
JEWISHcolorado Interim President & CEO

Year End Giving – Inspiration by Lily

 After learning about the devastating hurricanes affecting the southeast, Lily, a 4-year-old Denver preschool student, sprung into action. Lily constructed and delivered tzedakah boxes for every classroom in her daycare center. Then, she sent the money collected to JEWISHcolorado for our Hurricane Relief Fund! Lily, THANK YOU! We are inspired by your dedication and generosity, and we are so grateful for your gift to help others in need!

There is still time to make your gift before the year ends! JEWISHcolorado can accept your year-end gift to help us fund critical programs and services for our community:

  • By credit card — until midnight on December 31 if paying online
  • By check — postmarked by December 31
  • In person — by 4:30 pm on December 29

Thank you so much for supporting the work of JEWISHcolorado! Happy New Year!

Program Spotlight: JCRC

 The Jewish Community Relations Council, JCRC, is the advocacy arm of the Colorado Jewish community. This coalition of 38 Jewish organizations and 15 at-large members responds to current events, both domestic and international, and gives voice to the Jewish community on issues of concern. The JCRC sets policy guidelines on priority issues here, in Israel and around the world, and organizes the Jewish community in times of crisis, celebration and commemoration.

Engaging with Colorado’s elected officials is a key component of JCRC’s work. Earlier this month, the JCRC took a bi-partisan delegation of state officials to Israel on its biennial Public Officials Mission. The trip connects Colorado policymakers and business leaders with those in Israel to learn about cutting edge technology, agriculture, water conservation, alternative energy, cyber security and other advances. They engage in candid briefings with high level Israeli officials and enjoy an “insiders” look into Israel. They leave with a greater understanding of the unique relationship the Colorado Jewish community has with Israel.

Past attendees credit the trip with an increased knowledge and awareness of Israel and the unique relationship it shares with Colorado. They have learned new, productive ways our regions can share innovations and build partnerships, including in Denver’s partnership region of Ramat HaNegev, located in the Negev Desert.

State Representative Dan Nordberg and State Senators Leroy Garcia and Dominick Moreno credit their experience on the JCRC Public Officials Mission with the founding of the Colorado State Legislature’s Israel Caucus, which led the passage of state legislation in support of Israel and prohibiting economic boycotts against Israel, making Colorado the 4th state in the nation to pass anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) legislation.

On January 24, the JCRC is holding its biennial Date with the State to inform members of the Jewish community about relevant legislative issues being addressed by state policymakers. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill will be the keynote speaker and participants will have opportunity to conduct direct discussions with legislators after the formal program, if registered in advance. The program is open to the broad community, so RSVP now if you wish to attend! JEWISHcolorado.org/DateWithTheState

Donor Spotlight: David Birnbaum

 This month we are pleased to introduce you to David Birnbaum, a member of JEWISHcolorado’s Investment Committee and holder of a JEWISHcolorado Donor Advised Fund.

How long have you been involved with giving to JEWISHcolorado and why?

10 years! My wife and I enjoy feeling personally tied to our community at large and believe it is very important to support our Jewish community.

What impact do you feel you are having?

I enjoy serving on the Investment Committee. It is a good fit for my experience and background in real estate and private equity. I also get a great deal back from this work as I learn how other professional investors think about risk, markets, and asset allocation.

My wife and I also have a Donor Advised Fund with JEWISHcolorado, which is a great way for us to organize our philanthropy. Our Donor Advised Fund also motivates our giving – we continue to add to the fund as we want to see it grow even as we make annual gifts.

How do you choose where you get involved philanthropically?

When determining where to set up our Donor Advised Fund, we chose JEWISHcolorado because we wanted to keep our money in the local community and with an organization that we knew would be a trustworthy steward of our capital.

Tikkun olam is in our DNA. We feel a deeply-rooted cultural obligation to give and to try to make the world a better place. A Donor Advised Fund allows us to make multi-year commitments in a strategic way that reflects our personal goals and values. It also helps us organize and plan our giving in a thoughtful way. JEWISHcolorado provides a great avenue for all kinds of giving without limit. This was very important to me. The Donor Advised Fund keeps us organized and we plan to do all our personal philanthropy through the platform. Plus, the donor sphere website is fantastic – it’s basically a one-stop shop for all our giving.

How have you involved your family in philanthropy to date?

Kathryn and I put our heads together a few times a year and discuss which organizations we are going to support and in what amounts. We are new parents and we plan to use the structure of the Donor Advised Fund as a way to instill in our son the proper values and a sense of empathy and connection to community.

What role did your family/upbringing play in your Jewish values and giving?

I grew up having a vital sense that giving was important. My parents were always involved in causes that were meaningful to them. I give because I think nonprofit organizations play a vital role in our communities and our culture and can have a meaningful impact on society.  Giving binds us to our community. We feel that our good fortune creates an obligation to give back. Through giving, we have met like-minded people who admire the same causes and organizations that we do. Our involvement with others in the communities and causes we care about are the best things we do every year.

Any other thoughts you wish to share in closing?

Our Donor Advised Fund has truly been an efficient and effective way to organize our giving and support JEWISHcolorado. I would recommend a Donor Advised Fund to anyone considering it. It has been a great motivator for us to do more and support the community.