Jerry H. Herman is an alumnus of the DC Wexner Heritage Program and was the former Chairman of PANIM and is the current Chair of the Advisory Committee of the PANIM Institute.  As of June 1, 2011, Jerry became the Chief Operating Officer of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.  Jerry can be reached at 

A buzz word of Jewish organizations and philanthropists is “Collaboration”, a concept which ranges from strategic alliances to mergers and acquisitions. The 2009 acquisition of PANIM by BBYO, and the resulting creation of the PANIM Institute of BBYO, provide an instructive case study on the critical elements of successful organizational combinations.

Specifically, the following elements are directly correlated to the Institute’s initial success:

Providing strategic value. The combination of two leading organizations serving Jewish teens was based on the strategic premise of bringing together PANIM’s recognized service and advocacy programs, professional training and dynamic educators with BBYO’s unique asset of  30,000 teens, and its network of North American staff, advisors and alumni, as well as its advanced marketing and technology platforms.  The mission of such combination— to create a large scale movement of Jewish teens “committed to service, advocacy and philanthropy who are focused on issues that make a difference in the world and the Jewish values that support civic engagement“— is inextricably connected to the strategic assets each organization brought to the Institute.

Developing and utilizing a business plan, and a 3-5 year budget which achieves savings. Both organizations approved a business plan for the PANIM Institute containing annual program metrics in four categories: teen experiences, curriculum and educational resource development, professional training and movement building. The plan includes a three year budget, with expense savings to be achieved from economies of scale. By next year, the combination will have lowered corporate expenses from PANIM pre-merger levels by 38%, resulting in savings of $1.8 million over three years to the Jewish community.

Securing funding commitments from philanthropists.  Each organization secured philanthropic commitments for 3 years to fund  the Institute’s projected  expenses. Such support validated the Institute concept, and enhanced the ability of its professionals to focus on the business plan’s metrics and mission. In its first two years, philanthropic investments in the Institute exceeded the pre-merger financial commitments. Of importance in allowing the Institute to grow programs during its initial phase was setting aside 25% of the philanthropic investments into a scholarship fund.

Implementing new programs and penetrating new markets; Requiring evaluation. The Institute’s funders and business plan required that it expand PANIM’s signature 4 day school year teen seminars and  two week summer  programs, and develop shorter service learning programs through the direct recruitment of teens in the BBYO network. More than 3,000 teens are now annually participating in new Institute programs, and the first middle school student program launched with 60 participants in spring 2011. Finally, the Institute’s platform is facilitating regional issue summits and the expansion of “summer impact” programs to Israel, and to new U.S. locations in 2012.

To ensure that the quality of the Institute’s programs were being monitored during such a rapid period of organizational growth, ongoing teen and staff surveys have been utilized, and an independent evaluation study will soon be completed.

Involving philanthropic and volunteer leadership of both organizations in governance.  Critical to the combination was the focus on governance in the pre-merger negotiations. The decision to create an Institute Advisory Board composed of PANIM and BBYO volunteer leaders, and to place several PANIM leaders on the BBYO Board, has facilitated a more team oriented approach toward the Institute’s strategic goals, while also serving as a check and balance for retaining the historical  assets and successful attributes of each organization.

Merging and respecting cultures. Most essential has been a commitment by the highest levels of BBYO professionals and the PANIM staff which joined the Institute to make the integration of PANIM into the national and local levels of BBYO a top priority. Such process has taken much effort, sensitivity and leadership.

Achieving a whole much greater than the sum of the parts.  The PANIM Institute was selected as one of the 50 most innovative Jewish organizations in 2010 by “Slingshot” since ” the PANIM Institute’s approach  of mixing immersive and episodic experiences is unique, as is the content, which should reach an ever increasing slice of the Jewish teen world.”

Prior to the merger, on an annual basis:

  • 800 teens attended PANIM’sprograms of at least three days
  • 8,000 teens participated in one day service programs like JServe; and
  • 100 Jewish educators received training from PANIM.

By the end of the second year of PANIM Institute operations this August, on an annual basis:

  • 1,200 teens will experience programs of three days or longer
  • 2,100 teens will receive service learning through “Taste of Activism” programs at BBYO conferences
  • 9,000 teens will have been part of J Serve and other community programs; and
  • 575 educators will be recipients of professional training.

The PANIM Institute will have connected with approximately 13,000 Jewish teens and educators this year through the above-listed programs, which represents a nearly 50% increase from 2009 pre-merger results!! These very strong results are exclusive of the thousands of Jewish teens practicing advocacy and Jewish values in “Stand-up” campaigns on issues ranging from human rights to childhood bullying, or receiving Issue and Holiday Guides. Such initiatives have been accomplished by leveraging content and distribution through strategic alliances with many other Jewish and service learning organizations.

Such initial successes bode well for the long term mission, sustainability and impact of the PANIM Institute resulting from the 2009 combination of two organizations devoted to meaningfully connecting teens to Jewish values and service grounded in “Tikkun Olam”.