The 2013 “FEDovation Award” recognized five new and innovative programs pioneered by community federations from across the United States. The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee won for its Heller Israel Advocacy Initiative.
(Sarasota, FL) The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) honored only five community federations in the United States and Canada with its 2013 “FEDovation Award.” The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee (JFSM) was one of them. The award was given for JFSM’s groundbreaking Heller Israel Advocacy Initiative. The award recognizes federations that offer new and innovative programs that set an example for other federations to follow. Howard Tevlowitz, JFSM’s executive director, accepted the award with Marty Haberer, JFSM’s associate executive director, at JFNA’s General Assembly in Israel on November 11, 2013. Other communities honored include New York City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
“We’re all deeply humbled by this award,” says Tevlowitz. “At the same time, we feel this is the sort of program the award is meant to encourage.”
Tevlowitz notes that The Bob and Esther Heller Israel Advocacy Initiative was established to serve as an advocate for peace and security in Israel through education, information and community awareness in the Sarasota-Manatee region.
“Robert and Esther Heller saw a need in our community for pro-Israel advocacy and together we worked to fill that void,” says Tevlowitz. With the support of the Hellers, JFSM was able to reach out to the regional Christian community and start a series of interfaith missions, programs and initiatives. In the past two years, JFSM has hosted two interfaith trips to Israel, an Israeli arts and cultural fair and several other programs that have attracted more than 10,000 people from the interfaith community. The organization has also partnered with area non-profits groups, including Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Mote Marine Laboratories, Sarasota Ballet and The Perlman Music Program/Suncoast to present programs that showcased aspects of modern Israeli life and culture. “Through these initiatives, we’re able to bring Israel to our region and educate the community about Israel’s contributions to the wellbeing of our world,” says Tevlowitz.
“This mission is widely shared,” says Haberer. “What sets our initiative apart is the creative way we get our message out there. We aren’t just preaching to the choir anymore. We’re speaking beyond the Jewish community to a global audience. Yes, what they’re hearing is a voice for Israel—but it’s a fresh voice. We’re speaking to the 21st-century mind with 21st-century communication tools. It’s a new, fresh and original concept, and I think the JFNA recognized that.”
Haberer adds that the selection pool was vast, the standards high and the competition fierce. Out of all the Jewish Federations of North America, only 28 offered the kind of innovative programs that met the criteria for the award. An online voting contest narrowed this sample down to five. The final decision was made in an online election. Five hundred votes were cast from JFNA representatives from the USA and Canada. According to Haberer, people were cheering when the news came out that JFSM’s Heller Israel Advocacy Initiative was one of the five winners. “It’s like hearing your brothers and sisters from across the continent say, ‘We think you’re doing a good job. Keep it up. We’re still deeply touched.”
The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to save Jewish lives and enhance Jewish life in the Sarasota-Manatee region, in Israel, and throughout the world. In addition, the Federation is responsive when worldwide catastrophes occur. For more information about The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, call 941-371-4546 or visit www.TheJewishFederation.org.