Putting the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Scorecard into action

Putting the Pittsburgh Jewish Community Scorecard into action

The Pittsburgh Jewish Community Scorecard (jewishscorecard.com) “went live” on Feb. 18, 2014. The Scorecard is a catalyst for a vibrant, thriving and engaged Jewish community.  As a Pittsburgher, I am proud that we are the first Jewish community in the United States to initiate and create a community scorecard.  

As you can see when you go online, the Scorecard is a constantly changing and expanding set of data that tell us, in the aggregate, how well we are doing as a community.

 From the beginning, those of us involved in the process asked each other, when we have the data, what will we do with it? How exactly do we use data to evaluate how well we are doing as a community in order to truly become a more vibrant, thriving and engaged community?

On Dec. 1, 70 people sat together to begin to answer this question.  In two-and-a-half hours of thoughtful, spirited and focused discussion, we began to talk about the challenges and strengths of our Jewish community that emerge from the Scorecard data we have already collected and how we can use these insights to shape the future of our Jewish community.  We also talked about what other kinds of data we might collect to deepen and broaden our vision for the community.

This group, the Leadership Roundtable, sought to emulate some of the most successful aspects of the Allegheny Conference by bringing together influential leaders from around the community to talk about actions we can take to improve Jewish Pittsburgh, while focusing on the Scorecard findings.

Chaired by Stuart Hoffman and Jeffrey Letwin, the Leadership Roundtable was the newest chapter of the Community Scorecard.  With a year of data under our belt, we asked renowned researcher (and consultant to the Scorecard) Jack Ukeles to prepare a “State of Jewish Pittsburgh” that outlines the strengths and challenges of our community based on Scorecard data and to present this report to the Roundtable. Then, community leaders identified the most pressing challenges facing Jewish Pittsburgh and helped chart the Scorecard’s next phase of data collection.

Roundtable participants spanned the spectrum of our community: leaders from all denominations, social service professionals, leaders from suburban synagogues, funders of programs directed toward unaffiliated Jews, board members from agencies committed to care for seniors, local government officials, people passionate about Israel, people passionate about Jewish education — all connected by their influence within Jewish Pittsburgh and by their desire to see us grow stronger.

After Ukeles’ presentation, participants spent time in groups discussing what strategies are most likely to move the community toward becoming more vibrant and engaged.

I walked around the room during these working groups and watched with admiration as attendees pored over these strategies, struggling with them, debating one another and learning about the issues impacting their neighbors. Then, a most inspiring – and surprising – turn of events occurred.

One by one, representatives from each working group stood up to summarize their teams’ discussions and present an overview of their suggested priority list. One by one, the same themes and issues kept arising. Across this broad tapestry of backgrounds and interests, there somehow emerged a consensus of issues that should inform our communal agenda.

The top concerns were: the need to reduce the cost of being Jewish; the need for more leadership-development programs for young adults (22-45) and to increase the relative low number of young adults who sit on Jewish organizations’ boards; the need for more Jewish educational programming for Jewish families and Jewish adults; and the value of increasing the number of Jewish children and teens participating in immersive Jewish experiences.

So now, we – as a community – will be taking these concerns and addressing them. We will form task forces to research these challenges and begin the process of identifying strategies to combat them. We will collect more and better measures so that we can continue to chart our progress. The Scorecard will continue to grow, improve and inform our decisions.

And through this process we can become more data-driven, make better decisions because we have more information and see how we’re progressing.

The value of collective impact was demonstrated last Monday night. A group of committed leaders took the next step in bringing together a segmented community to face common challenges. Together, we are moving closer toward a brighter future. And as we continue to build upon this foundation for a stronger community, we’ll stop for a brief moment to appreciate the progress we’ve made so far. As Ukeles noted, the Leadership Roundtable was a historic moment for Pittsburgh and for Jewish community life in general.  Now, we turn our attention to creating a plan of action to address the challenges that will impact our future. This is when the hard work truly begins.

Meryl Ainsman volunteers as chair of the Community Scorecard Steering Committee.