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8.313.12 Issue

by Sherrie Saag, Communications Specialist, Jewish Federation of Omaha

Almost two years ago, Murray and his wife, Sharee, were awarded the Jewish Federation of Omaha’s Humanitarian Award. At that time, he was reminded of his brother Nick’s remarks as president of the Federation in 1972, “I feel a valid, important and meaningful life is possible here in Omaha… in a little community we can communicate with each other, we can work together. We can create something vital and creative.”

Murray thought his brother’s words were appropriate in 1972, applicable in 2010 and today, in 2012, even more so. “We can secure our financial future, and we will, but there is more to keeping this community strong and healthy. Who will walk our campus and populate our hallways in the future?” Newman had said in 2010.

Murray Newman leads the way by example. Since 1987, when he and his wife, Sharee, established the Murray H. and Sharee C. Newman Supporting Foundation, grants have been awarded to the ADL/CRC to run its prejudice elimination workshop, BBYO for its Teen Mitzvah Day, to the JCC’s Maccabi Games, NCJW’s Dictionary Day program, and the JFS Tzedakah project, to name just a few. Every agency and program on campus is touched, and every community member benefits from their generosity and commitment.

This year, Murray takes on the chairmanship of the Pacesetter Division for the 2013 Annual Campaign. Together, with Anne Shackman, the Lion of Judah Chair, they are setting a new course for Campaign solicitation; emphasizing families and a couples’ approach to Campaign giving.

The following is a Q&A with Murray about the new approach:

What makes Pacesetters important to you?

The Pacesetter Division of the Federation’s Annual Campaign defines the final result of the Campaign. So goes the Pacesetters… so goes the Campaign. The 91 cards comprising last year’s Pacesetter Division contributed 58% of the 2012 Campaign.

It is no secret that during the last several years, the Federation’s Annual Campaign has struggled to even meet the prior year’s results. We MUST do better in 2013, or we risk programs and services being reduced, and support to Israel and international Jewry through the Jewish Federations of North America will be reduced.

I am pleased and proud to lead the Pacesetters’ effort. We have had a year’s worth of change at the Federation. Let’s make this year, a year of change for the Annual Campaign. And, let’s begin with the Pacesetters’ Division of the Men’s Campaign achieving record results.

How can you make a difference now?

I intend to do a number of things differently in this year of Campaign change. First, I plan to work more closely than ever before with the Lion of Judah Division of the Women’s Campaign. In fact, I’ve already started. The brilliant Anne Shackman and I have met several times to discuss a much closer collaboration than has ever existed before.

Second, we are scrapping the old and tired concept of a Pacesetters Kickoff event. Instead, very shortly, Anne and I will be announcing an exciting and new joint kick-off for our two Divisions. Stay tuned for our announcement.

Anne, myself, and the Federation Campaign staff are discussing the use of an innovative “pilot program” of joint solicitation of husbands and wives. We have bounced this idea off of several members of the community, and it was well received. Our goal is to solicit a dozen or so couples together; asking them to consider an increase of their combined gifts to be allocated to the Men’s and Women’s Divisions at their discretion.

What do you hope to accomplish?

Anne and I hope to reverse the trend of the last few years.  We intend to lead our respective divisions with increased giving; to propel the overall Campaign to a new level. We hope to meet the goals set by our 2013 Campaign leadership.

 Any “pearls of wisdom” for the Press readers?

Many exciting changes have occurred within the Jewish Federation of Omaha over the past 24 months under the capable leadership of President Jody Malashock and Chief Executive Officer Mike Silverman. The process of change is often difficult and sometimes misunderstood. But, it is vital that community members focus on the big picture and the destination to which we are headed.

Yes, there are always bumps in the road along the way, but the leadership must have the resources to reach that destination. Now is the time for all of us to “step up”, more so than ever before. Let’s make the 2013 Campaign the most successful ever; with everyone digging just a little bit deeper.

Answer the Ask. Spend a few moments with that volunteer holding your card, meet with him or her; listen to what they have to tell you, and together, do some great things. Not only for our beloved Omaha Jewish community, but also for yourself.

I speak from experience that I am happy to share. Nothing makes one feel better (in the long run) than doing something special and good for someone else.