The only surfing I do is with a remote control. And that’s what I was doing the other night. I came across the finals, or near finals, of “The Voice,” “Dancing with the Stars,” and “American Idol.” A few months ago, attention was drawn to “The Sing Off” and in a few weeks “Americas Got Talent” will begin a new season.
As these shows progress to the final rounds, all of the remaining contestants emit amazing talent. While some performances are better than others, all the contestants – if they can maintain consistency – could easily win the season’s contest. While the talent captivates us, the producers know well the drama of winners and losers. Week after week we tune in to watch the competitions as the margins narrow. Excellence abounds and we struggle trying to determine who was best, who will move to the next round and who will go home with dreams abated.
We actually have a reality show going on right now in our Jewish community. It is the Federation’s annual allocations process. A group of committed Jewish community volunteers meets with agencies and organizations to determine how to best divide the monies raised in the Federation’s annual campaign. But this is not a reality show on television that is scripted and sculpted to artificially elicit your emotions. This is real life; and unfortunately, there are winners and losers in real life.
I have been doing this work for nearly 30 years, and frankly, I enjoy raising the money more than spending the money. Even the Talmud points out how difficult it is to allocate limited funds. In Tractate Shabbat, it is written “May I be among the collectors of communal funds, and not among the allocators.”
Don’t get me wrong; I do marvel in the impact of our funding on our community and in Israel. But, since there is not enough money to go around, and most – if not all – of the requests deserve funding, the prospect of winners and losers leaves me wanting. On the reality television shows there might be a winner, but we know that runners-up don’t go wanting: Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, and Chris Daughtry did not win their Idol competitions, but neither were they losers. However, our runners-up do not get recording contracts, Broadway starring roles or movie deals. They simply go unfunded.
This is our reality.
Scholarships for Jewish teens to visit Israel, go to Jewish summer camps or attend Jewish youth group conferences. Services for the Jewish elderly such as counseling, activity groups and congregate meal programs. Welfare relief efforts in Ukraine for Jews confronted with a collapsed economy and a civil war. Subsidies enabling quality family and adult Jewish education programs. Jewish education scholarships for children. Programs designed to help Jewish middle- and high-school students confront anti-Semitism and the lack of accommodation in our schools.
This is our reality.
I really hate the thought that there are winners and losers in our reality. But there are. Some of our “contestants” go home empty-handed, meaning some very deserving programs in our Jewish community go unfunded each year.
Our judges (the allocations committee) will present their recommendations in June to the Jewish Federation Board of Directors … sort of our “the envelope, please” to see who wins.
You can help stave off the losers by contributing to the Federation’s Annual Campaign before June 30. If you have already made a contribution, consider increasing your pledge or contribution by then. Call us. Send in a check. Find the “Donate Now” button online at www.jewishlehighvalley.org. I’m not above pleading for your support if that means we can allocate more funds to needed services.
Your contribution now can help reduce the number of losers this year.
Unfortunately in this reality show, the losers affect us all. We are less of a community if less of our teens are engaged in Jewish life. We are less of a community if students are turned away from Jewish educational opportunities or if we let the quality wane. And what does it say about us if we ignore the plight of Ukrainian Jews when they need us the most?
Your support counts and it counts now.