JFO Update from Mike Siegel

Twenty years ago, the JFO Board of Directors had the foresight to begin purchasing the six houses located north of our campus along 132nd Street. Given the fact that we are surrounded by residential neighborhoods, there is little room for growth, so acquiring these parcels was a strategic priority. Recently, the Board purchased the last two homes, enabling us to begin the planning process for use of the land.

In December of 2022, Michael Miller agreed to chair the 132nd Street task force. This committee was given the responsibility of determining the best use of the property for our campus and Jewish community. Michael engaged a dozen community members to participate on the task force and help determine how the land can best serve our community’s needs. At the first meeting, the committee agreed that the recommendation on the use of the land would not be based solely on economics, but truly based on what our community might look like in the future.

To date, the committee has met multiple times to review our campus guiding plan, our 2017 demographic report, the 2021 housing affordability study, and other relevant reports. While the committee has identified various needs in our community, it is time to request your input. There will be a couple of opportunities to provide your ideas so the committee can make a fully informed recommendation to the JFO Board.

All suggestions are welcomed, but the committee asks that when submitting your thoughts, please keep in mind that we are working to develop a strategy that will have the greatest impact on our general Jewish community. Please also keep in mind that suggestions do not necessarily need to be based on economics.

If you wish to submit an idea, you can do so by e-mailing 132TaskForce@jewishomaha.org. In addition, we will be scheduling a town hall meeting for our community in the coming months to share the results of the input-gathering process. Please watch JFO communications for further details on that upcoming meeting. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Michael Miller at mwm@colliers.com.

Shabbat Shalom,

Mike Siegel
JFO Co-President

Update from Phil Malcom

It was 4:45pm on a Tuesday, and I needed to bolt out the door. As I finished up my shift as the Campus and Events Assistant at the Federation, I knew I needed to get to 156th and Dodge by 5:00 to begin my first tutoring session of the night. I had sessions stacked up one on top of the other all across West Omaha until 9:30pm, at which point I’d make my way back to Dundee, meet up with Laura for a drink at the Dundee Dell, and collapse into bed in our little apartment. On Wednesday I did the same thing, but swap out tutoring, and replace it with waiting tables at the Outback Steakhouse on 132nd and Center. At the Dell, Laura and I would swap horror stories of grumpy customers as we looked at each other, bleary-eyed, over our nachos. (She worked a second job at the end of her teaching day as well.) It was 2012, and we were in our 20s, early in our careers, and working hard to cobble together a life. Sometimes we look back on those days with a bit of nostalgia for the feeling of hustling and of being “Malcoms united” (the nightly toast). What I also remember is that of those three jobs, what I wanted most was to spend time working at the JFO, even though it wasn’t my highest paying gig. And when the opportunity arose to take on more responsibility, I jumped at it.

There’s a “stickiness” to this place, something that keeps people coming back. Each year we celebrate people who have worked at the JFO for 5, 10, 15, 20, or more years. Each year I’m amazed at how many people have been here for more than 20 years, people who have spent their entire careers serving the community. What is it that keeps us all coming back? I posed a similar question to our leadership team this week, and they told me things like, “the sense of camaraderie on our team,” “the purpose behind our work,” “the support of our community.” These are things I often hear when I talk to people about their work at the Federation.

I heard similar things from Vanessa Gifford, a Graphic Designer on our Marketing team, in a recent conversation. She and I have bonded over the last year as we are both new parents of twins. When Vanessa discovered that she was pregnant with Nora and Isla, she had a choice to make: she knew that she didn’t plan to come back to work full time, but she also knew there were plenty of opportunities to work remotely for other companies or as a freelancer in graphic design. Instead, she decided to stay at the Federation for three days a week. When I asked her about that choice, she told me right away that she wanted to stay connected to her team and her work at the JFO. She loves feeling a part of something bigger than herself. She loves the variety of programming we do across our campus. And she loves the dynamic of her team, one that consistently does amazing work without taking themselves too seriously. Like Vanessa, hundreds of dedicated people think of this place as home.

Erin Leutzinger was five years into an appointment at Madonna when she got the call from Shelley Cash telling her that she needed a new Nurse Manager. Erin had worked at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home for 15 years previously before leaving for Madonna. Feeling comfortable and established in her role at the time, she said she wasn’t particularly interested. Then she went home and her husband, Craig, told her, “What are you talking about? You loved working at the Blumkin Home, and you talk about it all the time.” She’s been back with us for over a year, and she tells me the sense of family (both staff and residents) and the sense that we are all united in one purpose across this campus are the reasons she missed the Jewish Federation during her five years away and the reasons that brought her back.

Last week, our campus leadership team hosted an appreciation lunch for this dedicated crew. We grilled kosher hamburgers for everyone and celebrated the work we do, the community we serve, and the family we’ve become. Your Federation is filled with remarkably talented and committed people doing amazing things every day. I’ve visited other communities and can tell you that Omaha’s staff is the envy of many other organizations. If you get a chance in the coming weeks, thank one of the many professionals who make this organization run day in and day out. I know that you, like me, are tremendously proud of the work they do to grow and sustain a strong and vibrant Omaha Jewish community.

Thank you, and Shabbat Shalom,
Phillip Malcom

JFO Update from Bob Goldberg

Like many of you, I look forward to summertime and all that goes with it – time outside at the pool, flip flops, the College World Series, corn on the cob, longer days – and the list goes on. So, I want to wish you all a great summer.

Another event that signifies summer is the JFO Awards Night and Annual Meeting. Thanks to everyone who participated in our Awards Night and Annual Meeting earlier this week. It was awesome celebrating the community together. It was a great turnout and congratulations to all of the honorees. Thank you to our board members, volunteers, donors, and staff who make our important work possible.

Now, let’s go to Israel! I am excited for our Jewish community trip to Israel this November 2-12, which will celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of our Partnership2Gether (P2G) sister city program with the Western Galilee. This is sure to be a unique and memorable trip.

Now is the time to register. The early bird special pricing, available exclusively for donors to the JFO Annual Campaign, runs through Thursday, June 15. Join me and our trip co-chairs, Andrea and Mike Siegel and Linda and Kevin Saltzman, and register now.

The trip will start in Jerusalem. We will stay at the Herbert Samuel, which is a great boutique hotel just a block or so from Ben Yehuda Street, one of Jerusalem’s premier outside shopping, dining, and socializing areas. The Herbert Samuel has a daily breakfast that you will find ridiculously hard to leave. While in Jerusalem, we will visit sites like Yad Vashem, the Old City, and Machane Yehuda market. We will eat and drink and meet people. There will be an optional excursion to Masada and the Dead Sea.

We will then head to the Golan Heights and see the beauty of Israel’s north. We will stay at HaGoshrim, a kibbutz in the Galilee Panhandle next to the Hurshat Tal National Park and by the Jordan River. It is spectacular. We will spend time in the mystical city of Safed (or Tzefat or Tzfat depending on your spelling preference), which following the influx of Jews in 1492 from Spain became known as the center of kabbalistic teaching.

From there we will make our way over to the Mediterranean Sea at the grottoes of Rosh Hanikra. We will then enjoy two days in our Partnership Region visiting Akko (or Acco or Acre) and the Western Galilee, sharing time with friends at the P2G 25th anniversary gala celebration. We will stay at the Nea Hotel in Shavei Zion, just a stone’s throw from the beach. The last time I was at the Nea, they served a bountiful cheese cart along with the amazing Israeli breakfast.

The last couple of days of our experience will be in and around Tel Aviv. We will be staying at the Crown Plaza, located right on the promenade. We will experience the ancient port city of Jaffa, and all the excitement that the big city of Tel Aviv has to offer.

This trip has something for everyone – great food, culture, art, history, innovation, learning about religion and politics in Israel, and the amazing diversity of the people. And we will be joined by my friend, Shachar, who will serve as our tour guide throughout the trip. He is the best guide in Israel, and you will love him as much as I do.

So, what are you waiting for? Come experience Israel’s cultures and traditions. Connect with our people and our story. Explore the extraordinary beauty and hidden gems of this ancient and modern land. Join me on this trip of a lifetime.

For more information or to register, use the QR code, click the link or reach out to Jay Katelman, Director of Community Development at jkatelman@jewishomaha.org or 402.334.6461.

Have a great summer and thank you for all you do to make our community special.

Shabbat Shalom,

Bob Goldberg