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Joshua Simon Plays Significant Role in Changing Focus of YJP

By LEISAH WOLDOFF Managing Editor

This year, Young Jewish Phoenix (YJP) will focus more than ever on giving back to the community, according to its new co-chair.

Our mission is "to teach people how to give, both tangibly and intangibly, with their money and their time," said Joshua Simon, co-chair of YJP, a division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix aimed at Jewish young adults.

Most current YJP board members are new, Simon said. "Our goal is to have people who haven't been involved, get involved."

YJP is primarily volunteer-run, Simon said. Recent federation staff cuts eliminated the position of coordinator of the young adult division.

A major goal of the group is to enable young adults to "learn more about the federation and become more involved in the community," he said.

As of press time, YJP had 1,857 "friends" on its Facebook page which is the group's primary form of communication.

YJP's renewed efforts will increase opportunities for young Jewish professionals to participate in both philanthropic and educational opportunities, according to a press release, and most events will be geared to raising funds to benefit local and national Jewish charities.

Although YJP plans to hold fewer events than in the past, "we're looking to make bigger impacts with the events that we do host," Simon said in a press release.

Larry Hirsch, who has co-chaired YJP with Marc Newman since its inception in 2008, continues as co-chair. Newman - who also was on the founding board of YJP's predecessor Young Leadership Division, which was founded in 1997 - is now YJP chairman, serving in an advisory role.

"This is not just a group about happy hours or social activities," Newman said. "It's going to be focused on philanthropy and volunteerism in every way."

Even happy hours will provide an educational and philanthropic component.

For instance, YJP's first event this year is a happy hour at Jimmy Woo's on Feb. 24 and will feature Kathy Rood, the manager of Jewish social services at Jewish Family & Children's Service, who will speak about JFCS' Jewish community services. The $5 admission fee will benefit JFCS programs.

Future events include Mitzvah Madness, a day of community service; Mazelpalooza, a party on Christmas Eve that Simon has chaired with Marci Hirsch for the past several years; and a fall golf tournament.

YJP also will play an active role in other federation activities, such as "Why We Do What We Do: Philanthropy and the Jews," a Feb. 10 event featuring political commentator and columnist Micah Halpern, which is chaired by Newman and Mary Tessler and co-hosted by YJP and the federation's Women's Philanthropy.

Other Jewish young adult groups in the Valley that have formed in the past five years, such as Jewish Sisterhood, ShabbatLuck and Tribe, are independently run by volunteers.

The longest-existing such group, Arizona Adventurers, has been run by volunteers for more than 20 years.

Some synagogues also have young adult programming.

Bob Silver, chairman of the federation board, said he is "thrilled" with the work YJP leaders are doing.

"As we're going through this generational change, it is vital for federation to really engage with this young group in getting them involved early with what we do and how we do it," he said. "It's a very different generation that has grown up with a different view of technology, a different view of how they see philanthropy, and we need to ... make sure that we're engaging them in the right way."

YJP has aimed its programming primarily to adults ages 21-40, but the group's demographic has shifted to an average age of 25, said Newman. He and other volunteers are working to create additional programming for those in the age range of 35 to mid-50s.

YJP's new structure will include mentoring between older members and younger members, in a sort of changing of the guard, Newman said. "We've realized that if we don't take the bull by the horns in this way, there will be no future leaders."

Contact Joshua Simon, 602-672-4559 or joshua@simoncre.com, or visit az.yjp on Facebook.

Tags: Philanthropy

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