Annual Campaign Kick Off: It all starts with one

by | Sep 19, 2014 | Featured

by Laine Mednick Rutherford

Drawing on the past to inspire the future, the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater inaugurated its 2015 Annual Campaign by showcasing the words and deeds of two relatively contemporary Jewish role models.

On Monday, Sept. 15, community members took a brief journey back in time to gain inspiration and motivation from the examples set by Theodor Herzl and Golda Meir, staunch advocates for the state of Israel and the Jewish people.

Actors Michael Lifshitz and Gail Byer portrayed the pair in a featured performance at the free evening Campaign Kick Off community event at the Sandler Family Campus.

To play Herzl, the nineteenth century Hungarian journalist and activist known as the father of modern, political Zionism, Lifshitz wore a topcoat reminiscent of the period and grew a beard similar to Herzl’s.

Byer donned a gray wig, simple utilitarian clothing and applied makeup to appear more aged for her role as Israel’s fourth Prime Minister. Meir is often named as the most influential Jewish leader of the twentieth century.

Golda and Theodor’s stories, words, and inspiration were intended to enlighten and energize this and future generations, Byer told the audience of 125.

“They left us with a legacy,” she said. “A legacy of hopes and dreams in which a Jewish world could live in peace with the respect of its neighbors and an admiration of its importance. They left us a legacy of a Jewish homeland, where all Jews are accepted and welcome. They left a legacy of never having to watch our own people persecuted by others, or marched into gas chambers.

“Most of all,” Byers said, “they left us a legacy that says words can and actions can, and will, make a difference…and show that ordinary people like all of us are capable of performing extraordinary deeds.”

Lifshitz stressed the importance of using role models such as Herzl and Meir as inspiration to build a strong community and to set examples for children and grandchildren.

“You have the opportunity to make your own legacy, to write your history for others to tell,” said Lifshitz.

”By taking action, by giving of yourselves, by asking others to join you, by standing up to and being counted, by reaching out, by taking the gift they gave us and perpetuating it, you have honored Herzl, Golda, and our people in ways only the future will tell,” he said.

Community leaders who were participants in the evening included Jennifer Groves, Young Adult Leadership Campaign chair, Jodi Klebanoff, Women’s Campaign chair, Karen Jaffe, 2015 Annual Campaign chair, and Miles Leon, president of UJFT.

Leon emphasized that UJFT leadership is working diligently to ensure funds raised through the Annual Campaign are used as efficiently and resourcefully as possible. And, while there are economic and other challenges for the community, Leon said the ultimate goal is the same.

“We may have different opinions of how we do things, and how we raise money and how we can stretch the dollar a little more, but at the end of the day, we all need to stand together and make sure we can take care of our community here and overseas,” Leon said.

Jaffe confided that when asked by a community member why there had to be a campaign every year, her answer was short and simple.

“Because our problems don’t go away,” Jaffe said. “We have an Annual Campaign and we give every year because it’s not a perfect world—not this year, and likely not next year either.”

Jaffe asked the audience to take motivation from the performers they heard during the evening’s event, and to embody the concept that a single person can make an extraordinary difference.

“Our theme this year is ‘it all starts with one,’” Jaffe said. “Be it one idea, one conversation, or one mitzvah. Every one donation—every one to our UJFT—helps us change our world for the better. You can be ‘the one.’”

More coverage about the UJFT’s Week of Extraordinary Deeds, which began with this Campaign Kick Off, will continue in the next issue of Jewish News. ‘Like’ UJFT on Facebook,, to see more photos of this event. For more information about UJFT, or to make a gift to the Annual Campaign, visit