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August 23, 2012 - Image 34

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-08-23

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points of view

NextGen from page 33

"The future of the Jewish community
is inextricably tied to the future of the
Detroit area and, therefore, to all of
Southeast Michigan."

- Miryam Rosenzweig

NEXTGen already is stirring national
interest. Rosenzweig has received inquiries
from the Jewish communities of Norfolk,
St. Louis, Atlanta and San Antonio.
On Aug. 5 in Orlando, she talked up
NEXTGen at the 2012 National Young
Leadership Cabinet, of which Robb Lippitt
of Bloomfield Hills is incoming president.

Paving The Way
Operating as a Federation experiment for
13 months, CommunityNEXT (CNXT), a
priority of Federation CEO Scott Kaufman,
sought to meet Jewish young adults ages
21-32 in their space and on their terms —
not according to a traditional engagement
model. CNXT has touched at least 2,200
young adults — a notable achievement
although strategic follow-up will be essen-
tial to keeping them interested.
CNXT initiatives have included the
ComePlayDetroit athletic intramural
leagues, a free office-space program called
Elevate, a career assistance service for job
seekers in their 20s (in partnership with
JVS) and a 12-city forum on attracting and
retaining young adults in Jewish commu-
nities across the so-called Rust Belt.
Pitch for Detroit, a charity softball
tournament returning this Sunday to
Inglenook Park in Southfield, is one of the
star CNXT attractions. It has raised almost
$150,000 over the last two years for the
Live Detroit Fund, which provides rent
subsidies to selected young adults to move
to Downtown Detroit; in return, recipients
host a monthly event that brings peers
to the central city. It's hard to gauge the
motivation and longevity of the grant win-
ners, but a metro area bent on boasting
an active, urban young adult community
must think beyond traditional margins.
This year's Pitch for Detroit will benefit
the Do It for Detroit Fund, earmarked for
central-city social justice initiatives. "Our
goal: Rosenzweig said, "is to have indi-
viduals apply for micro project grants. By
doing this in partnership with Repair the
World, we'll ensure the projects are mean-
ingful and a benefit."
New York-based Repair the World bills
itself the advocate for volunteering and
service in and by the American Jewish
To further bring young professionals to
Detroit, NEXTGen, on behalf of CNXT,
also has struck up working relationships


August 23 2012

with other Detroit-based operations such
as Moishe House, Isaac Agree Downtown
Synagogue, Detroit Institute of Arts,
Summer in the City and Dan Gilbert's
holdings. Cutting-edge thinking must per-
meate the funds and events that bubble up
from these partnerships. Some things may
fail, but calculated risk taking typically is a
hallmark of successful innovation.
CNXT, like all central city-focused orga-
nizations and individuals, is dependent on
Mayor Dave Bing, the city council and the
police department together spurring an
urban groundswell, economic incentives
and safe neighborhoods. Otherwise, short-
term gains run the risk of disintegrating.
Through its Detroit Nation, CNXT also
has reached out to native Detroiters living
in other popular metropolises. This keeps
the young-adult energy pipelines flowing
and further aids the Live Detroit Fund.

Upward And Onward
Meanwhile, NEXTGen is busy analyzing
Gen X and Gen Y demographics and their
major implications in search of revers-
ing the Jewish community's young-adult
population trends.
Numbers alone can be misleading, but
NEXTGen clearly is on the up trajectory.
Over the last year, Pitch for Detroit hosted
1,000 players, Latke Vodka drew 800 par-
ticipants, the EPIC event sold out with 600
attendees and a Lag B'Omer picnic had 200
picnic-goers. At the Jewish Federations
of North America TribeFest last March in
Las Vegas, NEXTGen, supported by the
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit,
not only sent 90 delegates, the most of any
Jewish community, but also was voted as
having the "Most Innovative Programs for
Young Adult Engagement."
New this year is NEXTGen Hub, specifi-
cally designed to bring together 30-45 year
olds with common community interests.
Recognizing the crucial role of the
Annual Campaign, NEXTGen is off to a
good start, raising more than $560,000
from more than 1,000 donors.
Yearlong NEXTGen goals include hon-
ing board criteria and strategy that's truly
invigorating. Make no mistake: Boards
that have a rigorous sense of their purpose
will more likely arrive at a direction that
really matters. NEXTGen board action
ultimately will secure or refute Federation's
faith in the new umbrella department —

faith demonstrated by $180,000 being
grams are accomplishing goals and bring-
allocated from the 2012-2013 Annual
ing the largest return on investment."
Campaign for next-generation engage-
The burden thus falls to NEXTGen to
ment, an increase of $86,000.
get results by having a process to measure,
"Federation has definitely recognized
evaluate and improve programming.
that it needs to invest more than it did in
The promising early success at engaging
the past toward engaging young adults
hasn't deterred Rosenzweig from believing
because we're now a department struc-
NEXTGen could widen its audience via the
tured with higher expectations for com-
right welcome mats.
munity building," Rosenzweig told me in
"We want to find out who else is out
an interview.
there and figure out the best way to reach
"In order to take Federation's historic
them so we can diversify our core group,"
mission of helping Jewish people into the
she said. "We want NEXTGen to also
next 100 years, we've got to build a vibrant
speak to them. We want to know what
Jewish future agenda," Federation's Scott
they would like us to be so we can create
Kaufman told me on Aug. 15, the day after
space for them, too."
he co-led a discussion about young-adult
In his acceptance
engagement at a Jewish Federations of
speech as president,
North America workshop held in Dallas
Marty Maddin of
for Federation professionals.
Huntington Woods said
"And we're doing this without getting
at the NEXTGen inau-
away from our historic role and without
gural meeting in June:
radically cutting funding to our agencies
We must reach beyond
Marty Maddin
to pull this off. I feel good that we said
our comfortable circle of
we'd do something about next-gen engage-
friends and create space
ment and we're actually doing it. This
and a voice for those not currently at the
isn't Federation talking in the abstract.
table. This is not our table; this is a com-
Collectively over the last three years, atten- munity table. And everyone who wants a
dance at young-adult events — Torah on
seat at it is welcome."
Tap, Lathe Vodka and Pitch for Detroit, for
It's encouraging that NEXTGen is taking
example — is showing a 300-400 percent
an aggressive approach in its quest to sway
increase. There's great energy"
the actual and potential young leaders of
Participants are the primary energy
Jewish Detroit toward why they collec-
generators. "We're just opening doors,"
tively have a better shot at making a trans-
Kaufman said, acknowledging the energy
formative, enduring difference in Detroit,
is rubbing off on Federation staff and lay
Southeast Michigan and beyond. E
While the thrust is outreach and engage- Young adults curious about NEXTGen should
ment in the Jewish community, a positive
contact Miryam Rosenzweig: (248) 205-2538.
spinoff has been three
straight years of Annual
Campaign growth in the
number of young donors.
Notably, NEXTGen
SYRIA 2012 N\
isn't wholly reliant on
Federation. Outside fund-
ing has pushed the 2012-
2013 NEXTGen operating
budget to upwards of
$500,000, Kaufman said.

Dry Bones NIA 2012

Driving Hard
The NEXTGen staff is
laser focused right now
on developing a matrix
and metrics for leadership
development — namely,
measurement tools for
every program.
"We want to make
sure programs are the
most effective they can
be — and if they aren't, we
will make adjustments:'
Rosenzweig vowed. "We
operate through 'program-
ming with intention' The
intent is to ensure pro-


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