Men’s Major Donors: Men gather to show support for Jewish community

by | Oct 31, 2014 | Other News

Jay Klebanoff, John Strelitz and Jeff Saunders.

Jay Klebanoff, John Strelitz and Jeff Saunders.

There are those who have been close friends for years. Others are business associates or casual acquaintances who see each other in synagogue or at community events. Still others are multi-generational members of the same family. Some reside a substantial time of the year in Florida and others live throughout the year in Tidewater. What they all have in common is a fierce dedication to the Tidewater Jewish community and to the Jewish people. They are the Men’s Major Donors of the Tidewater Jewish community and with great pride and caring donate almost $3,000,000 to the Annual Campaign.

These men regularly gather on the Sandler Family Campus around the High Holidays and are usually inspired by their rabbis’ words, their own introspection and the call of the recently chanted prayers.

There are those who come for the first time and others who have been coming for years. They come to make their commitment to the UJFT Annual Campaign and to share their convictions. They rededicate themselves to much of what they hold dear about the Jewish community and they come to be inspired by the words and actions of one another.

This year’s event had a special meaning as many of those present had just completed making their gift to the “Stop the Sirens” campaign which was designed to provide emergency humanitarian funds to Israel in the wake of Operation Protective Edge. They had, like the rest of the world, witnessed the attack on Israel, the discovery of the tunnels and the refusal of Hamas to retreat from their ultimate desire to eradicate the existence of Israel. They too have been worrying about a nuclear Iran and rise in militant Islam.

The evening and the process is relatively unadorned, absent of fanfare and particularly uncomplicated. This year, the attendees were treated to beautiful violin renditions of the Star Spangled Banner and Hatikvah by recent Hebrew Academy graduate, Daniel Watts, as well as to a breathtaking video and explanation of her recovery process by U.S emigre and former IDF veteran Tzipi Zipper. Zipper spoke eloquently of the reasons for her aliyah to Israel and her abandonment of any special privileges afforded to new citizens or women as she excelled in an elite armed services unit. Tzipper then movingly described a life-threatening accident that caused the onset of her years’ long ordeal of debilitating chronic pain and accompanying long periods of dark depression. She emphasized over and over again how UJFT provided the initial and continued funding for the Center for Independent Living in Tel Aviv that has been the mainstay of her fight and the fight of many other disabled Israelis for their recovery.

The men eat, chat and then participate in the process for which they came. One by one they talk about themselves, their dedication to Judaism, the issues that concern them, the respect they have for each other and their commitment to the Annual Campaign. Many increase their gifts, others give the same as last year and some, for a variety of reasons, have to give less. All are listened to, supported and admired by one another. They are a small community of Jews who come together for a common purpose, to support the Jewish people. It is not their wealth that makes them unique, but the process they undertake year after year that does so. It is a process that is available that to any two Jews or group of jews in the community who have a willingness to talk to and inspire one another about their love of Judaism and how to support it financially.

Special thanks go to Steve and Art Sandler, John Strelitz and Jay Klebanoff who served as chairpersons of this year’s Mens Major event.