The Future Is For The Young

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Federation’s newest division expands the focus on the next generation of Jewish Detroiters.

Marty Maddin

In “Grand” style, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit is combining three of its young adult programs into a single division.

The formal launch of the NEXTGen Detroit division will take place during the March 10 EPIC Event at the MGM Grand in Downtown Detroit.

The long-term strategy is to attract, engage and retain the next generation of Jewish Detroiters.

NEXTGen Detroit brings together three existing programs: Young Adult Division (YAD), Community Birthright and CommunityNEXT. The division also will be developing a new model for building community within the 21- to 45-year-old age group, supported by a range of new programs and initiatives.

“It is clear the welfare of Jewish Detroit depends not only on meeting the needs of the community today but also on creating a vibrant home for the next generation,” says Scott Kaufman, Federation CEO.

Josh Levine

“That means creating a breadth of social, cultural and professional opportunities. We realize we need new tools, new technologies and, ultimately, a new structure in our organization. That’s what NEXTGen Detroit is all about.”

Larry Wolfe, Federation’s 2012 Annual Campaign co-chair, adds, “Younger Jews certainly aren’t the only ones we are trying to reach, but they’re critical. We can only hope to grow and sustain our community into the future if we effectively reach the next generation.”

Continuum Of Engagement
Community Birthright is Federation’s arm of the national program, offering free 10-day Israel experiences for Jews ages 18-26. CommunityNEXT, Federation’s social engagement initiative begun in 2010, is creating a sense of Jewish community among young Detroiters by focusing on their interests and passions, such as the revitalization of Detroit.

Larry Wolfe

Both Birthright and CommunityNEXT are outreach programs, providing connections to the Jewish community for a new population. For those already engaged, the well-established YAD division offers a platform for sustained leadership opportunities.

By coordinating the three programs under a single banner, Federation aims to create a seamless continuum that meets its audience on its own terms, using its own unique language and mode of communication. Beginning this summer, the name YAD itself will no longer be used, and the group will be identified simply as NEXTGen Detroit.

“After years of maintaining a highly successful YAD program, we know the time is right to transform the identity to NEXTGen,” says current YAD President Josh Levine. “These days, ‘Young Adult’ means teenagers, as in ‘young adult fiction.’ Our focus now is on transforming the division to meet the needs of our constituency.

“‘Customer-centric’ is a term you might not have heard used for Federation groups before, but it very much describes the strategy we’re implementing.”

Desire To Connect
NEXTGen Detroit Director Miryam Rosenzweig, a recent transplant to Detroit from New York, where she ran the global next-generation program at World ORT as well as the national next-generation program at the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), agrees.

“What we think of as ‘next gen’ is actually a very broad group of young people, from their early 20s to their early 40s, both single and married, with and without kids,” she says.

“What they all have in common is a deep desire to connect, both with their peers and with their community. But they don’t necessarily relate to the Federation messaging that successfully reached their parents. Federations across the county are facing the same challenges. What’s so exciting about Detroit is that we’re innovating a way to solve them.”

Rosenzweig and other NEXTGen leaders have made it clear the new division is not simply rebranding the old message. Rather, they’re fundamentally changing the way they do business. Instead of being largely focused on raising dollars, they are now equally focused on the task of building a relevant community.

To achieve this, NEXTGen Detroit will leverage a combination of outreach efforts, events and messaging that help redefine the mission of Federation in terms that resonate with this new audience. Social media and other Web-based technologies will play a key role in keeping the group connected but so, too, will face-to-face interaction.

“This group is highly engaged, whether it be to help our local community, support the revitalization of Detroit or just celebrate and socialize with peers,” says Marty Maddin, current YAD President-elect who will become the first president of NEXTGen Detroit in June.

“The main thing is this group wants to see the result of their efforts. They care deeply about a number of issues in the community, and they are willing to work hard for change. Our job is to provide a conduit to the needs, and to make sure the efforts remain focused. And to make sure we have some fun, too.”

Building On Successes

Jacob Kohn of Detroit and Leora Flaitso of Chicago dance at the 2011 Latke Vodka, which drew close to 800 young professionals.

The initiative already has had numerous successes in earlier incarnations. CommunityNEXT, for example, has drawn national attention for the remarkable growth in its audience and attendance at numerous events. Latke Vodka, a joint CommunityNEXT/YAD event last November, drew close to 800 young Jews, many new to Federation.

“This is a critical time for us,” Kaufman says. “If we don’t attract and engage successfully, there won’t be anyone here to care for the needs of the community in the future. But through the remarkable work of our young leaders, we’re now headed in the opposite direction, toward growth, renewal and a future where every young Jewish person here has a meaningful place to call home.”

 -Ted Cohen, Federation’s senior director of marketing, contributed to this report.

 

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