Federation became ‘Greater’ with Schiffman at helm
By PAUL HAIST
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It was November 1987 when Charles R. Schiffman first came to work as the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s executive vice president.
Then it was just the Jewish Federation of Portland. One observer noted that it became “greater while Charlie was in charge.”
For the preceding four years, Schiffman, his wife Marsha and their daughter Nili lived in Jerusalem where Schiffman was first the financial information officer for the Jewish Agency for Israel and then the vice president of Resource Development Associates, a private fund-raising and development firm.
Prior to his time in Jerusalem he had served as the executive director of the Jewish federation in Columbus, Ohio. Before that he was the assistant director at the federation in Springfield, Mass.
He chose to plan his departure from the JFGP now in order to look to new horizons.
“After 22 years in this seat and 37 years working for the Jewish community, I wanted to make a change and do something new while I am still open to the excitement of new things.”
He expressed an interest in teaching or lecturing, possibly in Jewish studies at the college or adult level.
Schiffman has shared with federation leadership a list of 13 skills and 13 midot or personal qualities they might look for, noting that finding all of those in one person is not likely.
“The best we can do is to list the criteria we seek and hire someone who has as many of them as possible, and then make up for those he/she doesn’t have, with the skill sets of the other staff,” he said.
Schiffman said his job has changed as the federation has grown.
“We have a larger staff than when I began, so it requires more oversight. However, at the same time, our long-tenured staff has become much more experienced and therefore needs less supervision.”
Noting that federation staff plays “a much more active role in campaign than in the early years,” he said, “Personal contact for outreach, cultivation and solicitation has become much more important in our day-to-day work than it was previously.”
Looking ahead, Schiffman pointed to five challenges.
• Continuing and improving upon our community’s outstanding fundraising record in difficult economic times.
• Developing new major donors as the older ones pass from the scene.
• Crafting a federation brand and message that will resonate with young adults age 25-40.
• Examining the paradigm of federated giving to see if there is a more effective and efficient way of carrying out our mission in the 21st century.
• Ensuring that our community continues to see itself as a vital part of the worldwide Jewish family.