Who would have thought 18 months ago, that we would still be speaking about COVID-19 as we approach another Jewish New Year? With our nation and world, we continue to combat the virus. But now we fight in a stronger position—with vaccinations—as we pivot daily and return as much normalcy as possible to our lives.
Together, we have accomplished a tremendous amount since the pandemic began. As I reflect on this time, and look toward a new year, I would like to share a portion of my remarks from the Federation’s Biennial Meeting in June. It was wonderful to see so many community members together outside on the Sandler Family Campus. I hope 5782 will bring more of us together.
Many of us have spoken about our community’s resilience over the past 15 months. Yes, we have been resilient, but we have also lost many leaders, loved ones, friends, and neighbors. They will always be with us.
At our Biennial Meeting 2 years ago, I spoke about our community’s strength. Who could have predicted that we could become even stronger? When our lives changed…our 2020 annual community campaign was 95% complete. We began reviewing requests for allocations from the 2020 campaign to meet the increasing needs locally, as well as the emerging global needs of vulnerable Jews and communities. In a global pandemic, we raised and allocated $4.7 million to meet these needs. Our 2021 annual campaign has again raised $4.7 million to meet local and global needs.
Concurrently, 15 months ago we quickly established the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, in partnership with Tidewater Jewish Foundation. With a match opportunity from Jewish Federations of North America, the fund raised and distributed $330,000 for emergency needs due to COVID in Tidewater.
Thanks to so many of you for supporting our community—as a campaign donor, a patron of the arts, a corporate sponsor, a legacy donor, all of the above, or in other ways.
Throughout the pandemic, we continued to build community. Our Konikoff Center of Learning, our community hub for Jewish education and engagement, has and continues to broaden learning opportunities for all ages. We are also expanding our young family engagement opportunities. Our first “Sunday Funday” was held at the JCC pool with over 200 in attendance! This is an example of what happens when a community leader, in this case, Shikma Rubin, has an idea, rolls up her sleeves alongside staff, engages an array of others and works to lift the “J” in “JCC”! Building on that excitement, Camp JCC is shaping up to be one of the best summers at the JCC in quite a while. While we never left, the JCC is back in business.
Pre-pandemic, our community under the leadership of Kevin Lefcoe and Sarah Lipman, embarked on building a new Mikvah and updating our existing one. The Mikvah belongs to our entire community and the addition of the new structure will ensure that our community will be served for many decades.
Finally, the strength of our community can be seen in our steadfast commitment to the State of Israel. With news of rockets attacking Israel and antisemitism on the rise, our Jewish Community Relations Council provided information and resources to the community. The JCRC continued to reach out to our elected officials to thank those who stood for Israel during the conflict, and urge those who didn’t to speak up in support of our ally in the Middle East and against Hamas. JCRC also continues to work with our partner Secure Community Network, synagogues, and law enforcement partners to ensure all are informed of issues and concerns. The work of our Holocaust Commission is also more important than ever as it educates in a variety of ways on the magnitude and lessons of the Holocaust.
We must continue to have conversations on why we must all stand together, including with other faith and ethnic friends, to fight misinformation and hate.
So, as the new year 5782 approaches, may we all continue to stand together to continue to strengthen our Tidewater Jewish community and take care of one another, kol yisroel aravim zeh b’zeh both locally and globally.
L’shana tova tikatevu—wishing you and your families the sweetest of New Year’s.
Betty Ann Levin
Executive Vice President/CEO
United Jewish Federation of Tidewater/Simon Family JCC