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Expand news Greetings from JFNM's New Executive Director (Posted: 08/28/2015)

Dear Friends,

It is with great pleasure and a deep sense of humility that I join your community as executive director of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico. My wife, Taina, and I have been New Mexico residents for mere days, and yet we have experienced an outpouring of warmth, friendship, and genuine excitement for our arrival that has been unexpected and very poignant for us. We are honored to be here, and we are eager to become active, visible contributors to Jewish life in New Mexico.

Although I served on a number of Jewish organization boards and committees, my work with JFNM is my first foray into Jewish professional life. While I am aware that significant challenges lie ahead, this is also an opportunity to grow along with the community.

My Jewish journey has been circuitous, much like the lives of many New Mexicans, for whom an eclectic set of personal and professional adventures led to the Land of Enchantment. Shortly before my second birthday, my family relocated from Chicago to Southern California, where I was raised in a Reform household in a heavily Jewish neighborhood. Just prior to my Bar Mitzvah, we moved to Tampa, Florida. It was there that I first experienced the challenge of being Jewish in an overwhelmingly non-Jewish environment, and where I realized the importance of strength and cohesion within a Jewish community.

At age 18, my first of many trips to Israel further served to strengthen my identity and sense of place in the Jewish world. Upon arrival, I first felt the hot blast of July air buffeting my face, followed by an immense and unexpected upwelling of pride upon seeing the Israeli flag flying for the first time, the Star of David waving resolutely over a land to which I felt a deep and immediate kinship.

Throughout the ensuing decade-and-a-half, I found myself wandering great physical distances from these early Jewish experiences. From college at Northwestern University in Chicago and graduate school studying Chinese language and history at Columbia University in New York to working as a “foreign instructor recruitment contractor” in a remote corner of China; from working with a Kenyan social services agency to fund AIDS education programs to visiting Jewish communities throughout the globe on backpacking excursions that took me through the Alps, Andes, and Himalayas; from building cultural competence programs for hospital executives across the United States to my most recent work fostering bilateral partnerships with non-government real estate organizations throughout the Asia-Pacific region and Middle East, Judaism has remained a guide and a source of comfort through challenges and triumphs alike.

Five years ago, Taina became a Jew by choice, and I was privileged to stand by her side as she carved her own personal path to Judaism. That experience, along with what I observe as an increasingly turbulent geopolitical environment for Jews, has led me to New Mexico, where I now fulfill my deep personal commitment to serving Judaism and to building a sense of Jewish community.

To be Jewish is a privilege with which comes the responsibility to be a positive influence both individually and communally. To be Jewish is a joy with which comes the obligation to work towards repairing the world. To be Jewish is not simply to be part of a religion or an ethnicity, but it is an experience, a state of mind, and a way of life that should be a sense of pride, comfort, and fulfillment for all who are a part of it.

Each of us expresses our Judaism differently. Whether you are a regular attendee of Shabbat Torah services, occasionally reflect on your Judaism, or do not actively practice, you are a valuable, important member of the Jewish community.

In that spirit, Jewish Federation of New Mexico strives to be a welcoming, inclusive and community-building endeavor. Philanthropic giving is important. The contributions of our donors are the lifeblood of the community and help JFNM provide services for Jews throughout the state. New opportunities for Jewish New Mexicans to interact with each other and the broader community will both fill the pipeline of potential contributors and encourage those who are already engaged to continue their involvement.

Soon, you will notice changes in how JFNM operates and interacts with the community. We will implement new strategies for communication, donor appreciation, and outreach. You will hear from us often, and will see us continuing to work to enhance Jewish life throughout New Mexico. Soon there will be new ways to interact with Federation, and I hope you will join with us to further renew Jewish life in this wonderful place.

The leader of another Jewish organization reminded me in a recent note that “a high tide raises all ships.” A strong, vibrant, cohesive Jewish community can be a light and a healing presence unto all who call this beautiful, enchanting state home.


Zachary M. Benjamin
Executive Director
Jewish Federation of New Mexico


Expand news JFNM Annual Report (Posted: 08/05/2015)

The 2015 Annual Report is now available. Click here to download the report.

Expand news JFNM's First Ever Population Study of Jewish New Mexico (Posted: 06/29/2015)

We are delighted to present the full report summarizing the first Demographic and Attitudinal Survey of the Jewish Population of New Mexico, January 2015

Almost 1,700 Jews in our state took part in this ground-breaking survey. Thank you for your participation. Your help made all the difference. We hope that you will find the results as fascinating as we do.

The survey examined:

  • How Jews in NM identify as being Jewish, including denomination and upbringing
  • Attitudes regarding the importance of being Jewish and participating in the community
  • Level of Jewish practice, including religious and community involvement
  • Demographic characteristics

Major highlights include:

  • The majority of New Mexico Jews say that ‘being Jewish’ is “very important” in their life (with 59%), with another 31% saying it is “somewhat” important to them. Nationally, 46% say being Jewish is “very important,” 34% say “somewhat” and 20% say “not too/not at all” important.
  • Fewer say that being involved in the Jewish community is important to them, with 40% saying it is “very important” and 38% saying it is “somewhat important.”
  • A majority (56%) are members of a synagogue, and another 3% are members of an Independent Havurah or minyan and another 4% say there is no synagogue available nearby.
  • Three-quarters feel attachment to Israel, including 40% who are “very attached” and 38% who are “somewhat attached.” Nationally, 30% say “very” and 39% say “somewhat” attached.
  • The population of Jews in New Mexico is considerably older than the national Jewish population: one-third of New Mexico’s Jewish population is over the age of 65, with 11% over the age of 75 and 22% between the ages of 65-74. Nationally, 24% of Jews in America are estimated to be over the age of 65 (versus 17% of the overall population).
  • Fully 87% have moved to New Mexico from another state, but 40% have been here more than 20 years.
  • A majority of New Mexico’s Jewish population lives in Bernalillo County (55%), with another 6% in Sandoval County. Another 23% reside in Santa Fe County, while 6% are in Doña Ana County and 3% are in Taos County.

During the spring, we will conduct a series of focus groups to examine our community's attitudes in greater depth, and a second report will be produced in the summer of 2015.

Thank you for participating in this ground-breaking effort!

You Count!

Read the Results of the Jewish Demographic Survey of NM today

Results of the focus groups are being compiled and will be released in September 2015.