Some people tend to think of Federation as rather old-school, something for the older members of the community, but with Federation’s NowGen focus, young Jewish men and women are increasingly becoming involved. Through Federation, this generation is infusing the community with innovation and direction.
One of these young people is 30-year-old Joshua Simon.
Originally from Chi Town, Joshua moved to theValley with his family when he was 12. Since there were not many Jewish children his age in his new neighborhood, Joshua drifted from his Jewish identity. However, while majoring in communications at ASU, Joshua joined a Jewish fraternity. He started attending Federation events and began engaging more in the Jewish community.
His passion for the Jewish community and Israel was further cemented during a birthright trip, “It was such a bonding experience and interesting to see that how the news portrays [Israel] often is not how it is.”
Joshua was eventually asked to chair Federation’s Young Jewish Phoenix (a precursor for NowGen) and the group’s signature event, Mazelpalooza. Joshua chaired the event for six years and under his leadership, the event grew to 1,000+ attendance and to raise more than $100,000 for the Federation. Joshua also helped found the Young Jewish Funders, a giving circle, and was guided by Federation through the grant interview and allocations process.
At the same time, Joshua was establishing himself. He had worked with a development company through college and for a few years after he graduated. At age 25, he started his own company, Simon CRE, a full-service commercial real estate development company. As president of a company which has grown exponentially over the past five years, Joshua is not able to give as much of his time to Federation, but does give with his checkbook. He is one of the Federation’s youngest major donors.
When asked about why he gives, Joshua said that giving feels good and that he knows he is making a difference, “I feel I am blessed because I give. If you have the ability to give, you should. I have seen the difference I have made.”
Earlier this year, Joshua went on a Federation-hosted trip with Stuart Wachs to learn how Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans, has been working to reinvigorate Detroit and its Jewish community. Joshua was inspired by Gilbert’s commitment to the Jewish community there and is eager to bring some ideas to Phoenix.
“Going on the trip made it possible to see Detroit on a different level—how strong their Jewish community is, how big a part Federation has there, and seeing how we can bring that here. What we invest today will pay off for the future of community—building a group of people who engage with their time and their checkbooks,” said Joshua.
Joshua is pleased to see that the Federation is looking to the future through its NowGen focus, and in doing so ensuring not only its future, but that of the Greater Phoenix Jewish community. He admires Stuart’s reaching out to the community to keep the Federation relevant among young Jewish men and women, “Leadership is everything. Bringing in young leaders and getting new ideas is vital. Bringing in people when they are young ties them to the organization for the rest of their lives.”