Danny Grossman: Judaism Unbound Episode 141 - Federations Facing the Future


Danny Grossman, CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, joins Judaism Unbound to look at the Bay Area as a case study for how Jewish federations address demographic and other changes in the Jewish community of the kinds revealed in the 2013 Pew Study and more recent population studies. [1]

 Image Credit: SFJCL.org

Image Credit: SFJCL.org

(0:01 - 16:06): To begin the episode, Grossman gives an overview of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco’s structure and work. [2] He introduces a landmark 2018 study that they helped to facilitate, called the “Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities,” [3] which examined the Jewish population of 10 local counties that collectively constitute the Bay Area. He highlights a few key elements of the portrait’s findings, including the discovery that 1 in 4 Jewish households in the Bay Area include at least one person of color, and only 3% of the community identifies as Orthodox. He also cites elements of the community that may be similar to many other areas of the country, including a fairly high rate of inter-group marriage (he uses the term “inter-group” marriage as opposed to “interfaith”) and a great deal of ambivalence about Israel.

(16:07 - 34:09): Grossman discusses in greater detail the process his federation has begun to better engage Jews of color moving forward. [4] He distinguishes between the sense of being “welcome” in a community and, more deeply, feeling as if one truly belongs. He then explores the strengths and weaknesses of metaphors comparing Jewish Federations to a kind of city hall for the Jewish community, and assesses the extent to which Federations should understand their role as assisting others in innovation work, innovating themselves, and/or a combination of both.

(34:10 - 50:11): The role that class dynamics play in the bay area has been the topic of a great deal of public discourse. [5] Grossman speaks to the ways in which the Federation has looked to addresses issues of wealth inequality in the area, creating pathways for people to connect to Judaism in affordable ways. [6] He then turns to the Wexner Heritage program, [7] an initiative that played an influential role in Grossman’s own path to Jewish Federation leadership, highlighting it as an example of how Federations can partner with pioneering programs outside of their own auspices to do meaningful work for their communities. He provides his take on the issue of Jewish representation, arguing that his federation is not “the voice” of San Francisco’s Jewish population, but “a leading voice.” To close the episode, he names the fact that it is both incredibly challenging and energizing to serve Jews of vastly different ages, life experiences, and perspectives.

 Image Credit: JewishDataBank.org

Image Credit: JewishDataBank.org

[1] Learn more about Danny Grossman by checking out his bio, accessible by clicking here.

[2] After this conversation was recorded, a number of developments related to the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco have garnered headlines, on the topic of its relationship to a project called Canary Mission. Learn more by reading this initial article, authored by Josh Nathan-Kazis of The Forward, this follow-up, also written by Nathan-Kazis, and this statement, from the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco.

 For up-to-date news on Jewish life in the Bay Area (and Northern California more broadly), visit  JWeekly.com  or check out print copies of J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

For up-to-date news on Jewish life in the Bay Area (and Northern California more broadly), visit JWeekly.com or check out print copies of J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

[3] Explore the Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities by clicking here. For a short article about it, see “The 2018 Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities shows us just who we are,” written by Rob Gloster for J: The Jewish News of Northern California.

[4] For an article that looks in particular at the racial diversity of the Bay Area’s Jewish population, see “Jewish organizations playing catch-up to racially diverse community,” written by Maya Mirsky for J: The Jewish News of Northern California.

[5] For analysis of the Bay Area’s economic climate, click here.

[6] See “Why are Jews abandoning San Francisco?" (also written by Mirsky) for a piece that explores the economic dynamics of the Bay Area for Jews in particular.

[7] Click here to learn more about the Wexner Heritage program.