Jewish Community Town Hall

March 8, 2021


The leadership of the Jewish agencies of Southern Arizona convened a Community Town Hall via Zoom on March 8, 2021 as an opportunity to bring our community together in dialogue during these challenging times. The town hall featured updates from Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation leadership, a conversation between Southern Arizona Jewish agency executives about the great work going on across our community in the midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, and an opportunity for community members to participate in dialogue during the Q&A section of the evening.


Thank you to all of the community members who were able to attend! For attendees and those who were not able to make it, please find below a video of the event. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties the first six minutes of the program were lost. We have recreated the content in text form.


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Introductory Remarks*

Presented by Deborah Oseran, Anne Hameroff, Bruce Ash, and Karen Katz

*Unfortunately, this section of the video was lost due to technical difficulties. However, an abridged version has been recreated below.



Deborah Oseran, Jewish Federation Board Chair:

Welcome to our community town hall. The impressive turn out for this event reflects how much we’ve missed one another and how anxious we are to re-engage and connect around our critical mission. Heartened by your interest, we intend that this will be the opener of a series with at least two more in the near term so that we will have an opportunity to learn more about and participate in our community visioning and planning process, and about the work of our Synagogue Federation Dialogue and congregations.


Tonight we will hear how our Jewish communal organizations and agencies have been navigating the pandemic and continuing to serve. Thank you for spending your evening with us, and, most importantly, for your ongoing commitment to our Jewish community.


This past year has been one of transition and change, some anticipated and some unanticipated. Graham Hoffman was appointed the joint CEO and President of the Foundation and Federation, a carefully considered and planned change designed to bring our two organizations even closer together. Other changes, particularly those made in response to the pandemic, were unanticipated.


Together, our Boards worked to ensure that we could meet the rapidly emerging needs and sustain our agencies. I would like to reassure those who may have had concerns about these decisions or were disappointed about the manner in which they were made, that, then and now, we have consistently been guided by our common purpose to promote the well-being of our community as we strive to fulfil our missions of empowering individuals and families to help those in need and strengthen and preserve the Jewish people here and around the world, today and in the generations to come.



Anne Hameroff, Jewish Community Foundation Board Chair:

Federation and Foundation tightened our belts, continuing to maintain the annual campaign while sharing staff and reducing staff, foregoing campaign calls to make wellness check-ins, and raising over $400,000 for emergency pandemic relief. While our volunteer engagement was largely suspended, programs moved online, where possible, and our work of coming together continued. We are amazed by the rapid response of our beneficiary agencies and partners and synagogues and reminded that our communal structure is strong.


In an emergency, we cannot suddenly develop the structures necessary to address crises. It is through your ongoing participation and dedication that our community is positioned to be able to help those most in need and to support our community at large in the time of change.


To begin our consideration of the changes in our agencies this past year, I turn to Bruce Ash.



Bruce Ash, Federation Vice Chair and Co-Chair of Annual Campaign:

As a longtime supporter and former Board President of Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging, I am pleased to provide insight about the successful sale of Handmaker to MED Health, an organization which our community can depend on to provide a top level continuum of care for years to come.


Long before the pandemic, we sat with Handmaker leadership to discuss an uncertain future. The conclusion was that a locally owned “one off” in the business of serving the aging was not sustainable, and that our community did not have the resources to support it. We mutually decided that Handmaker should select a professional marketing team to search for the right buyer with the know-how and resources to operate in this competitive field.


We have been fortunate to find MED Health, a national buyer that is not only primarily Jewish owned, but also has an impressive track record of carrying on faith-based relationships for Jews and the broader community alike.


When the Handmaker director resigned suddenly after an agreement was approved, MED Health offered to step in as operator. They managed operations thru the pandemic, found new ways to drive profits, and completed the sale under some of the most challenging economic circumstances in the past century.


Since it was necessary for the Jewish community to financially assist Handmaker during trying economic times, I’m pleased to report the sale proceeds were sufficient to pay back both the underlying bank debt and monies borrowed from the Jewish community, and still have over one million dollars in cash assets for future senior services or projects.


We have set up a task force made up of Handmaker and Federation leaders who will undertake a community-based process to make decisions about how to serve our senior community in the future with the surplus funds, which are held in trust. We could use your help in this endeavor.


Please note that MED Health has a Board with community members alongside the new owners and therefore operates as a nonprofit organization. However, it also has a profit incentive through their management operation.


Should you have questions about current or future support for Handmaker, please do not hesitate to contact the Foundation for additional information due to the new ownership structure.


I would like to shift our focus now to give sincere thanks to everyone who is participating tonight and your commitment to our community. The Federation is the primary fundraising, convening, and planning organization in our community and we are grateful for your ongoing support of our work. We are committed to working in collaboration with our partners with a greater focus on helping those in our community who are suffering and those who we hope our fundraising will lift up through philanthropy.


Our campaign looks different this year, but we are in need of your support more than ever. Community-based planning and goal setting enables us to provide for those most in need in our community and around the world.



Karen Katz, Co-Chair of Federation Annual Campaign

Thank you all for showing up to this event and for caring about our community. Your support and interest is what makes our community strong and responsive in times of need. This year has seen an increase in needs from food insecurity to social services, and your support is what enables us to act nimbly during these challenges. We ask that you pledge to the 2021 annual campaign and consider a multiyear gift to provide for a strong future for Jewish life in Southern Arizona. Let’s keep working and giving together!


Don't miss out on future town halls! Make sure you are receiving regular updates from the Federation and Foundation.