Update from Mike Siegel

Spring has sprung, and it’s a great time to be living in Omaha! The flowers are blooming, garden beds are being mulched, and we are leisurely walking to our cars after an errand. As we welcome our snowbirds back to town, I would like to highlight some great programs that are inspiring younger members in our Jewish community.

Young Omaha Emerging Leaders (YOEL) is finishing up its inaugural session. They have been learning about the community from our seasoned leaders through a variety of panel discussions. YOEL participants are fully engaged, asking thoughtful questions, and building skills to be future leaders in our community. This group will have the amazing opportunity to meet with the JFNA CEO, Eric Fingerhut, when he visits Omaha in May. Their training and hard work will culminate with a celebratory “graduation.” You can look for these graduates to be joining committees and boards across Jewish Omaha in the near future. I am confident these young leaders will positively impact many organizations. A huge thank you to Stacy Feldman for spearheading this program.

Earlier this year, your Federation started a pilot program for one-on-one mentoring. The program currently has five pairs of mentors and mentees. The goal is to inspire younger members of the community to become more involved in Jewish Omaha. The pairs meet every few weeks to discuss their volunteer experiences, learn about JFO agencies, and discuss their vision moving forward. Giving future leaders a point of contact strengthens intergenerational relationships. As with any pilot program, there is open dialogue between participants and JFO staff so improvements can be made moving forward.

The number of teens participating in Omaha’s B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO) has been growing over the last few years. In February, 17 local teenagers traveled to the BBYO International Conference in Dallas, TX. BBYO teens meet weekly to plan events, discuss current Jewish issues, understand their Jewish identity, and brainstorm ways to get more of their peers involved in Jewish life. This past week BBYO held their annual Chocolate Passover where they gathered for a Seder. Thank you to Jacob Geltzer, BBYO/Teen Director and generous volunteers who work with our BBYO teens to ensure the program continues to thrive.

The JFO Board understands the importance of developing our future generations into community leaders. I speak from experience as I am a product of an earlier training model, Jewish Omaha Leadership Training (JOLT). YOEL, BBYO and the pilot mentoring program help ensure the sustainability of our Jewish life in Omaha. With so many volunteer and leadership opportunities available in our broader community, it is incumbent upon us to be proactive in attracting young people to engage in Jewish Omaha.

Shabbat Shalom,

Mike Siegel
JFO President