United Jewish Federation of Tidewater celebrates the new Campaign year and Israel @70

by | Oct 20, 2017 | Other News

Community Relations Council’s 7th annual Israel Today series also begins

The kickoff of the 2018 Annual Campaign of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater was held Tuesday, Sept. 12 on the Sandler Family Campus. Leaders from synagogues, Jewish agencies, and the UJFT board of directors attended, as well as cabinet members, solicitors, and community supporters. The evening began with a festive cocktail hour where guests toasted past campaign achievements and discussed their excitement for the coming year.

In his opening remarks, John Strelitz, board president, reflected on the role that Federation plays and the impact that it has locally and around the world, including the life-saving aid Federation provides through its overseas partners— the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). Through the dollars generated by its annual campaign, the Federation feeds hungry elderly in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union; ensures that Jewish teens have access to Jewish summer camp and Jewish education programs; and that Jews living under threat (anywhere in the world) have the chance to make Aliyah to safety in Israel. At home the Federation’s campaign funds the local Jewish agencies that make Tidewater’s community the strong, vibrant, and caring community that it is. It provides JCC summer camp scholarships for families who require assistance; social programs for the community’s seniors; counseling and home health services on a sliding fee scale for those seeking assistance from Jewish Family Service; and access to Jewish education for the youngest to the oldest members of the community. In addition to the regular role of the campaign, it also provides emergency assistance to those, Jewish and non-Jewish, impacted by natural disasters— most recently, support for victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Strelitz closed his remarks with a call to action, encouraging all in the room, and the community-at-large, to get involved with the campaign—to give and to ask others.

Next to the podium, Laura Gross, chair of the Campaign, provided a detailed recount of the 2017 campaign, acknowledging that several factors contributed to a down campaign last year. She noted the impact the decreased giving has, saying, “a down campaign means [an] inability to meet the needs of frail, elderly Jews in the former Soviet Union…or to meet the growing needs of emerging young Jewish leaders who are seeking the training that will enable them to strengthen their Jewish communities…or to meet the needs of Hillels on the campuses of colleges and universities around the Commonwealth who are dealing with issues of growing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment. Finally, it means an inability to fully meet the requests of our local agencies.”

Gross stressed the importance of turning the campaign around and expressed her own excitement for the 2018 campaign. She highlighted the additional importance of long-term support for the community through the Tidewater Jewish Foundation’s Life and Legacy program, encouraging all to explore the possibility of leaving a legacy.

Gross then spoke on a very personal level about her daughter Rachel now living in Israel, and about her own new appreciation for the pressures and joys that take place each day in the Jewish state. Gross shared her enthusiasm for Israel turning 70 and for the celebrations which will take place throughout the year in honor of that milestone.

Danny Rubin, this year’s Young Leadership Campaign (YLC) chair, brought his own youthful enthusiasm to the stage. Rubin talked about having grown up in this Jewish community, benefiting from the various agencies that define it, and now finding himself not just a son, but a husband and father-and a leader in the community. Rubin brought greetings from the YLC and noted that he and the Cabinet were eager to start the campaign season. Their goals for the year are: to grow the number of Ben Gurion Society members—young donors giving $1,000+ to the annual campaign, and to reach out to young Jewish adults living on the periphery of the Jewish community, “to simply ask them to participate…to tell them that they have value.” Rubin’s hope is that they will ultimately become an integral part of the community.

Rubin then introduced the evening’s guest speaker, who also happened to be the first speaker for UJFT Community Relations Council’s 7th annual Israel Today speaker series, David Hazony, executive director of The Israel Innovation Fund, former managing director of The Israel Project, and editor of its magazine, the Tower.

In his discussion, Hazony talked about the shift in Jewish identity taking shape among American Jews today and the importance of intergenerational Jewish unity. “Jewish identity has evolved to where people don’t really know what the answers are,” he said. “We need to get to the core of what it really means to be Jewish.” A lively Q and A followed Hazony’s remarks, touching on the various ways that American Jews express Zionism; the different values of young people under 30 and how to “meet them where they are,” as well as the imperative of instilling Jewish pride in the next generation.

Janet Mercadante, Women’s Cabinet Campaign chair, closed the evening by reiterating the importance of Campaign, reminding the community to answer the phone when their solicitors call. “As we power-up the 2018 Campaign and a Year of Celebrating Israel,” said Mercadante, “I hope that you, too, will be inspired. I hope you will jump at the chance to meet with your Federation solicitor when he or she calls to set up a lunch or a coffee date. I hope you will say “Hineni!”—Here I am! when one of our community professionals call asking for your help with the campaign. I hope you will share you passion for community.” Mercadante closed by wishing all a “Happy, Healthy New Year with blessings of every kind.”