Campaign Kickoff opens eyes and hearts to community’s mitzvot

by | Oct 5, 2012 | Uncategorized

Members of the UJFT Israel and Overseas Committee meet with Micha Feldmann and Maly Gaday Jackson.

Members of the UJFT Israel and Overseas Committee meet with Micha Feldmann and Maly Gaday Jackson.

Guests at the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s 2013 Campaign Kickoff on Thursday, Sept. 27, were treated to an evening of Ethiopian sights, smells, and tastes.

They heard firsthand accounts of the difficulties and triumphs of being Jewish, Ethiopian and Israeli, and were thanked for making a difference in the lives of countless Ethiopians and Ethiopian-Israelis—in decades past, currently, and for continuing to help in the future.

A crowd of more than 200 gathered at the Sandler Family Campus to attend the annual event that officially began the Federation’s fundraising efforts for the year.

The goal for the 2013 Campaign year is $4.4 million, funds that Campaign chair Amy Levy says will continue the legacy set in place by past generations who sought to make life better for Jews locally and globally.

“We’re following in the footsteps of many generous members of our community, and it is a journey we just continue,” she says. “We are doing amazing things in this community…and tonight has demonstrated to me, and hopefully to all of you, the strength of a people, the power of community, and, that together, we do extraordinary things.”

The evening’s backdrop was a limitedrun photography exhibit, From Gondar to Jerusalem: The Remarkable Rescue of Ethiopia’s Jews (through October 9), shown on the second floor of the building. In the cardo, guests dined on Kosher Ethiopian cuisine.

Featured speaker Maly Gaday Jackson shared her harrowing story of escaping Ethiopia in 1984 at seven-years-old, and being clandestinely whisked away to a new home in Israel. Maly, now a local resident, works as an assistant teacher at the Strelitz Early Childhood Center.

Micha Feldmann, the night’s second speaker, shared his experiences of helping Jews like Maly leave Ethiopia during Operation Moses and other secret missions, including 1991’s Operation Solomon, in which 14,300 Jews were flown to Israel in just 36 hours.

“I am glad so many could hear our stories tonight,” says Feldmann, who continues to work with the Ethiopian community in Israel with the relief organization, SELAH. “And I hope they realize how important their gifts are. It is one way that Jews who live a better life can have the opportunity to be part of the Jewish world that doesn’t have such good lives.”

Before the evening concluded, the winner of the 2012 Hampton Roads Jewish Community Hero was announced. From a group of four candidates nominated and voted upon entirely by online participants— Dana Cohen, Morris Elstein, Miriam Seeherman and Nancy Tucker (formerly Metheny),—Tucker was named the year’s Hero. The Temple Israel secretary and community volunteer received a $500 check for the charity of her choice.

For video footage and events of this photo, visit in the coming weeks.

by Laine M. Rutherford