The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, at its annual meeting Nov. 13, gave a sneak peek at the community study it plans to release in January.

The meeting also summed up where the Foundation has been since the Cincinnati 2020 study was implemented 10 years ago. Foundation President Bret Caller and Executive Director Brian Jaffee went over what the organization has done and gave a warning to those in the Jewish community.

“Our resources are large but not unlimited and in wanting to insure the Jewish Foundation will have the assets to function as a full partner in the Jewish Community’s future we will be compelled to make some difficult choices in the years ahead,” Caller said. 

“Now we must take stock in everything we’ve invested in so far and with new data and perspective reframe our priorities so that we have the kind of flexibility to invest in new initiatives,” he said. “This means we will likely not be able to renew every single investment made in 2010. We may also consider current levels of funding in some of the renewals we approve.”

He said the Foundation is not discontinuing any current grant, but will work with the organizations. It also does not mean the community needs to stop growing and evolving.

“I believe the compelling comparative must be about building a better future and taking care of each other,” Caller said.

Jaffee said the 2019 Cincinnati Jewish Community Study, to be released on Wednesday, Jan. 15, will “provide a new portrait of characteristics, attitudes and behaviors of our Jewish community.”

He said the study will help identify trends and create more questions to determine the more pressing strategies, programs and policies in the Jewish community.

“Some specifics you can expect to see in the community study include a new estimate of the number of Jewish adults and children in our community as well as the number of non-Jewish adults and children that are part of Jewish households,” Jaffee said. “A description of the Cincinnati Jewish community in terms of age, gender, geography distribution, economic well-being and other socio-economic characteristics; a picture of participation in community programs and institutional Judaism along with represented samples of why people participate; and a new index of Jewish engagement that seeks to understand the multifaceted cultural, communal and religious expressions of Judaism existing throughout our community.”

After the release in January, there will be a year of study to learn what the study says and a 2030 committee will be established to continue the work.

Nanette Fridman, of Nanette Fridman Strategies, has been working with the Foundation on the study. She has been through studies like this before, and she cautioned to “take your time” in studying it.

“Take the time to really interpret what the data means, don’t jump,” Fridman said. “Focus on what matters. You have to make informed choices; you can’t do everything.

“You have to be ready for the data (and) have to have the right mindset, understand that data can lead to a more, better, new knowledge; ask follow up questions to refine understanding and determine focus. Use the knowledge to inform action and experimentation; be ready to measure the impact of the actions taken.”

One piece of information from the upcoming study she told the meeting is that 39% of Jewish adults would like to be much more (5%) or somewhat more (34%) connected to the Greater Cincinnati Jewish community. Another 49% feel their current level of connection is about right.

“What else do we want to know about this,” she asked. “How should this data inform our funding priority?”

Caller said the study will be the first opportunity in 10 years to look at new demographics showing how big the Jewish community is, where they live, how they engage and much more.

“We must focus on the changing face of our community at large and address the ongoing needs associated with the changing population and how we are going to provide those services,” he said. “We see disturbing new trends in anti-Semitism and challenges to Jewish security and we are uncertain if these characteristics are temporal or metastatic in growth.”

Jaffee said the Jewish community has to decide how to use the data gleaned from the study.

“How much are we going to allow data to drive the decisions we need to make about using community resources and what are the inherent risks and limitations about relying on certain types of data when we know not everything that matters is easy to measure,” he said.

Using the 2019 community study data, the committee will interpret it to identify big story lines, changes and what to focus on.

“This all adds up to a community that works in concert to hold up a mirror in order to see what it looks like and what it needs to continue in healthy ways,” Jaffee said “We understand part of this meeting might leave you concerned. The Jewish Foundation is going to great lengths to say at its annual meeting that we are limited in our ability to continue funding at the same level all the important work you have been doing the past several years. We will honor our pledge to meet these challenges head on.”

A list of the Foundation’s Charitable Purpose Awards made in 2018 and 2019 is listed below.

Jewish Foundation readies study to take into next decade

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