The Times They Are A-Changin'
As we settle into a new year, at the start of a new decade, I think it is an opportune moment to reflect on the future and learn from the past.
Growing up as a teenager in England in the 1960's, I never really liked Bob Dylan's music. Now all these years on, and considering his Pulitzer Prize followed by his receipt of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, I began looking again at his lyrics and poetry set to music, and realize how appropriate his words still are today.
The title of this article is a direct steal from his famous song recorded in 1964, and the words, the times they are a-changin', strongly reverberate within ESRA.
Change is a dynamic, happening all around us as a continuous process. When I first arrived in Israel, a phone in your home was like a precious jewel, and home computers, then in their infancy, were owned by a very few. Fast forward thirty-something years, and now both are readily available, not only in your home, but in the smartphone in your hand!
We have all had to make rapid adjustments to stay abreast of changes and keep pace with modern life. In fact, it's not only a challenge for individuals, but also organizations have to keep up and adapt. ESRA has met the challenge and has been embracing change, adopting modern tools, applications and capabilities to its advantage.
Under the guidance of our CEO, Sunny Marshansky, we have introduced a new database system, which enables us to immediately recognize our members and assist with their requests. The system also keeps us abreast of volunteer information, their activities, and their hours donated, making the job of reporting for our annual accounts far quicker and more efficient.
ESRA's website has also become increasingly sophisticated. So many people are now able to use it regularly to see what's on at ESRA, locally or nationally, book events and make donations, both of which are automatically receipted in seconds.
What's more, the website now incorporates ESRAmagazine's website where you can read articles from current and past magazines, and also contribute your comments and observations. Yet another innovation driven by change.
In my previous ESRAmagazine (#202) column, I reported on the enormous increase in the number of volunteers to ESRA's English Tutoring Program (ETP). Occurring within just a few months following a "volunteers wanted" campaign on Facebook, which inundated us with responses, this was a clear demonstration of the power of today's social media. Facebook is a significant tool for the promotion of branch or national events, or for contacting potential new volunteers for particular locations or fields of knowledge.
The above are small examples of how we are already utilizing technology to ESRA's benefit. But as we look ahead and keep pace with modern changes, we mustn't forget to also look back and be sure to keep all those elements of our organization that have made it a growing success for the last 40 years. ESRA began as an organization of people sensitive to the needs of others, and must continue to be so. At the same time, with its myriad projects, branches, donors, and some 1,000 volunteers, it is imperative to ensure the organization's financial viability so that we can keep doing what we do - providing services to our members and to the beneficiaries of our many Education and Welfare Projects. It is our challenge to adapt to the future while maintaining our awareness of the needs of individuals, communities and society, and understanding of how best to fulfill them.
From its inception, ESRA has prided itself on being a volunteer organization and we are fortunate to have many wonderful volunteers in most aspects of our activity.
As we enter our 41st year, we must aim to welcome new volunteers to continue this tradition into the 2020's - new volunteers who can provide the skills required to keep up with change - people with fresh ideas and new directions who can contribute to the future of our amazing organization. If you are one of these people, we look forward to welcoming you into the ESRA family. Drop me a line, my email address is below.
To return to Bob Dylan's lyrics, the times they are a-changin', but don't think twice, it's alright.