Stepping Up

Michelle Ostroff, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, said this year the federation is looking for new donors to step forward.

Michelle Ostroff, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, said this year the federation is looking for new donors to step forward.

Take a step forward and support your community as well as Jewish heritage worldwide with the Jewish Federation of Howard County’s 2014 Campaign, StepForward. As the name implies, this year’s theme is about advancing the campaign, taking a more proactive role and enhancing, as well as defining, Jewish culture, heritage and overall quality of life — locally and internationally.

“It symbolizes moving ahead and that it takes a community … to raise money to nurture Jewish identity, culture and engagement in Howard County, to keep Israel strong and to serve vulnerable Jewish communities around the world,” said Michelle Ostroff, executive director at the federation.

As a “step forward,” this year’s annual campaigners hope to build up larger gifts as well as increase the number of first-time donations. The goal is to raise $615,000 and to have 1,018 donors by June 30, 2014. Contributions will support the federation’s existing programs, social services, scholarships and overseas needs, and offer opportunity for greater community growth and innovation. So far, $120,000 has been raised.

Several years ago, the federation began an initiative to increase incentives through the Knesset Club. Donors to the Knesset Club contribute $100 a month or $1,200 a year to the annual campaign.

“That was a tremendous success, and the federation received a Sapir Award [for campaign excellence] from the Jewish Federations of North America,” Ostroff said. “This year, we would like those Knesset donors to ‘step forward’ to the next giving level of $1,800, $150 a month. This is the Pomegranate level. If just 20 Knesset donors make this increase, this will be an additional $12,000
toward our goal.”

The first federation in North America was established in 1895 in Boston. Jews in other cities soon followed; the Jewish Federations of North America currently comprises 153 federations and more than 300 network communities, including Anne Arundel County, the Baltimore metropolitan area, Cumberland, Md., Frederick, Md., Salisbury, Md. and Washington, D.C. The Jewish Federation of Howard County was established in 1969.

The 2010 Jewish Community Study of Howard County showed the area has an estimated Jewish population of 17,500 residents living in 7,500 households. This denotes an eight percent increase in Jews living in the community and a 15 percent increase in Jewish households over the last 10 years. Jews between the ages of 50 and 64 years make up 35 percent of the population in Howard County. Ostroff said the federation wants to ensure that they have the infrastructure to meet the needs of these community members as they age.

The Jewish Federation of Howard County contributes roughly 30 percent of earned campaign dollars to local social services, 30 percent to overseas partners and 30 percent to enriching Jewish life through engagement in Jewish Howard County. Overseas partners include the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, World ORT and Birthright Israel.

As a still new and growing Jewish community, Howard County, Ostroff said, has come a long way.

“When the community began, we had only interfaith centers. We now have interfaith centers that house many of our congregations and stand-alone synagogues for two of our congregations, Beth Shalom and Temple Isaiah,” she said. “We contribute to the vibrancy of Jewish life locally by funding programs such as PJ Library and BBYO as well as religious school scholarships.”

Additionally, the federation provides communitywide programs, including movies and concerts, which are held in venues throughout Howard County, including the Howard Community College and The Meeting House at Oakland Mills.

“Simply put, we enhance Jewish life and save Jewish lives,” said Ostroff.

There are many ways to give to the StepForward campaign. To make an online contribution, visit jewishHowardCounty.org/StepForward.aspx. To donate by mail, send to Jewish Federation of Howard County, 10630 Little Patuxent Parkway, Suite 400, Columbia, MD 21044.

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