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Scharf steps into president’s role at the Jewish Federation

What kind of community do you want to live in?

Miriam Scharf has a vision of the kind of community she wants for her children and grandchildren, and she’s committed the next two years of her life to doing her best to make it a reality by serving as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City.

“I grew up in New York City,” she says. “There you have the luxury of participating or not. In a community like Kansas City, it’s up to us all to do our part, whatever that means, to have the kind of community we all want to live in.”

Three primary goals

Building on the work of task forces initiated by Bill Carr, her predecessor as president of the Federation, Scharf has set three primary goals.
“My number one goal is to engage the next generation in philanthropic endeavors in the Jewish community through leadership programs, involvement in decision making, educational programs, missions and whatever else it takes,” she said.

In tandem with that, Scharf understands the need to stay focused on financial resource development and to expand efforts to educate the community about the Federation’s role in sustaining and enhancing Jewish life at home and around the world.

She also wants to make welcoming interfaith families a priority.

“Studies show that in some communities as many as 50 percent of Jewish families are interfaith,” she said. “In a community like Kansas City, I think we can do a better job of addressing some of the needs that interfaith families have, engaging the interfaith family in Jewish community activities and making them feel welcome.”

Where some may see challenges in achieving progress toward these goals, Scharf sees opportunity.

“No question there are challenges,” she says. “The area’s Jewish population is shrinking and aging while organizations seeking philanthropic support in the general community continue to expand.

“On the flip side, we have this gem in Kansas City — this vibrant, energetic, interesting Jewish community. It’s large enough to have wonderful programs and activities, but small enough to be manageable. We need to build on programs like Imagine Jewish Kansas City and other efforts to encourage more young professionals to settle here. And for those who feel the future of our Jewish community is important, we need to provide more opportunities to endow their gifts.”

No fear of fundraising

Scharf comes to the presidency with years of communal experience.

Upon moving here in 1977 with her husband Dan and their young children, she connected almost immediately with the Federation through Women’s Division’s leadership training program, serving in subsequent years on a variety of committees and as Women’s Division campaign chair and president.
On the Federation board of directors, she chaired the Israel and Overseas Committee and most recently served as campaign chair, which, as she explains, had a major impact on her attitude toward fundraising.

“Years ago, I felt intimidated asking for money” she said. “Now I feel most people are and want to be philanthropic. It isn’t that they are giving away money they can’t afford. All you’re doing is sharing your passion about the organization and explaining to donors why you feel they should support it. The emphasis isn’t, ‘Oh, I’m going to ask this person for money,’ but rather, ‘Oh, here’s an opportunity to showcase this fabulous organization.’ You hope what you say strikes a chord, they see it the way you see it and are happy to support it.”

Scharf says it’s an honor and a privilege to serve the Jewish community and that she is humbled by the trust and responsibility placed in her hands. Her message in a nutshell: “We have this fabulous community and it is up to all of us to take care of it to make sure it continues.”

Annual meeting set

Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City
78th Annual Meeting
Wednesday, Sept. 7
6:45 p.m.
Oakwood Country Club
9800 Grandview Road
$15 per person, includes a dessert reception (under Vaad supervision)

Also Honoring:
Outgoing officers, directors and committee chairs
KU Hillel and The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, Community Program of the Year Award Winners
Neal Schwartz, Dan Fingersh Young Leadership Award Winner
Dayna Gershon, CAJE Teacher of the Year

Reservations required by Aug. 31. RSVP at www.jewishkansascity.org, or call (913) 327-8103