Tidewater women donors come together in support of Israel and the Jewish People

by | Nov 9, 2023 | Uncategorized

Speaker Rabbi Diana Fersko with program moderator, Laura Gross

Amy Zelenka
Dozens of women gathered at the Sandler Family Campus for the annual United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Lion Tikva Chai lunch on Monday, Oct. 23. The lunch is a ‘Thank you’ for all women donors at the $1,800+ level of giving. The event’s featured speaker was Rabbi Diana Fersko, author of We Need to Talk About Antisemitism.

In her welcome remarks, Betsy Karotkin, UJFT Women’s Philanthropy chair, recognized the moment in time where “we find ourselves, as a community and as a People.

“These are not normal times,” said Karotkin, “Israel has a job to do,” and once again, the young men and women of the IDF will find themselves leaving family and homes to fight for the future of the Jewish state; becoming once more, the “Silver Platter” on which Israel’s future will be served. It was quite sobering and apropos of the moment. Karotkin encouraged the women in the room to support Israel through the Federation’s Israel Emergency Campaign and introduced the community’s young Israel emissaries, Maya Ostrov and Naomi Friedland, describing them as “our local Israel connection here in Tidewater.”

After delivering a campaign update, Karotkin thanked the members of Women’s Philanthropy who do the “not always easy” work of asking others for money and the women in the room “for saying YES when asked.”

Jodi Klebanoff, past Women’s Philanthropy chair, announced the community’s newest milestone givers, which included: one new Zahav Lion ($50,000+); one new Amethyst Lion ($36,000+); One new Emerald Lion ($25,000+); Two new Ruby Lions ($10,000+); Three new Israel@75 Lions ($7,500+); Six new Lions of Judah ($5,000+); and Two new Chai Society donors ($1,800+). Klebanoff also announced a New Endowed Lion of Judah – this is a Lion of Judah who has established a fund at the Tidewater Jewish Foundation to continue her gift at the Lion level, in perpetuity.

“Mazel tov ladies,” said Klebanoff, “to each of you, for reaching these wonderful new levels of giving within the Women’s Division. May you continue to go ‘from strength to strength’ in your philanthropy and your commitment.”

Klebanoff then recited the names of the Endowed Lions of blessed memory – an annual reminder of the women who came before and supported Tidewater’s wonderful Jewish community with passion and commitment during their lifetimes and beyond. “Each of them,” she said, “an Eshet Chayil – a woman of valor… Their memories remain a blessing for our community and for each of us.”

Following Klebanoff, another past Women’s Philanthropy (and current Campus chair), Laura Gross, took to the stage along with Rabbi Fersko, to facilitate a discussion of Fersko’s book, asking such questions as: What led you to write this book? What factors do you feel have played into the rise in antisemitism and hate in general? Do you think that COVID played a major factor? Political divides? Social media? What do you say to the elite colleges and universities across the country which have been silent or slow to respond in calling out pro-Hamas, anti-Israel, and antisemitic protests on campus?

Fersko’s responses to these and other questions were incredibly timely and contemporary. She did not sugar-coat the problem and did not have a single solution. But her book is designed to act as a resource for dealing with antisemitism, responding to it, and offering up ideas for how to discuss it with kids, as well as with Jewish and non-Jewish friends and colleagues. Her messages were helpful, if not particularly hopeful, and at such a time as this, provide important perspective and practical responses (if not solutions).

Karotkin closed the event with some final thoughts: “These are not normal times,” she reiterated. “We cannot pretend that the world is the same today as it was on October 6th when we were full of the joy of Simchat Torah. [The world] has changed, and I think we’ve all changed.”

After another appeal to support Israel with a gift to the Emergency Campaign, Karotkin encouraged all to pay those gifts as quickly as possible, to get the dollars and the help needed to Israel as soon as possible. “Thank you all so much for coming, for caring, for doing what needs to be done for Israel and for the Jewish People. Am Yisroel Chai.”
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Rabbi Fersko’s Book, We Need to Talk About Antisemitism, is available for purchase online or at the Simon Family JCC as part of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC’s Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival.
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Amy Zelenka is UJFT’s chief development officer. She may be reached at azelenka@ujft.org.