CEO February 2017 Update

Is it quiet at Federation lately?

When I see folks out on the “street,” sometimes I hear:  “Nice article last week.” Or, I’ll get a note back in the mail with some feedback on a column I wrote in the Reflector.

But, there’s never a dull moment at the Federation office. As the central fundraising agency in the community, the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond funds local Jewish agencies with social service programs for individuals from infancy to senior adulthood. We are the public affairs and advocacy office for the Jewish Community – through our Jewish Community Relations Committee. We have adopted communities in Ukraine and Israel. 

Four Beneficiary Agencies:

We have four major local beneficiary agencies: Weinstein JCC, Beth Sholom Lifecare Community, Jewish Family Services and Rudlin Torah Academy. The Virginia Holocaust Museum is a new affiliate agency. 

We also fund programs in Israel and around the world through the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. We run community-wide leadership development programs and Network JCFR – a program for young Jewish professionals in the community. 

We also support the Richmond Council for Jewish Education, an ad-committee of educators from local Synagogues, RTA, the Center and VHM. Other outreach and engagement programs include PJ Library, RJCL and Shalom Richmond Newcomers.

All these activities and agencies are funded through the generous contributions of our almost 1,400 donors. We are very thankful for the support of our local donors to help Jews locally, in Israel and around the world.  

I would encourage anyone to sit in my office any day of the week and witness the plethora of issues that come across my desk. Remember the line from “Fiddler on the Roof,” where Tevye posits that “if I was a rich man – I’d solve problems that would cross a Rabbi’s eyes!”  While I’m not certain that I always solve problems, I assuredly am involved in the process.  One of our top volunteers has an expression: “and there’s Sam firmly in the middle!”  We often find ourselves trying to pull disparate forces together to build community.

Full-Service Federation:

The fact is, we are a full service Federation. I have worked in six Federations and trained in a seventh. The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond has a very broad mandate as Federations go.  The St. Paul, Minn., Federation did not run a JCRC.  None of the other Federations I worked in had a close working relationship with a Holocaust Museum as we do here.  Only two had a community newspaper.  And none of had an IMPACT GRANTS process like we have here.  


The JCFR is in its second year of awarding IMPACT GRANTS to local agencies, Synagogues, RTA and other organizations. The grants foster innovative approaches to help build a more vibrant Jewish Community through specific, collaborative projects. The third year of IMPACT GRANTS will be announced later in 2017.

Honeymoon Israel:

As part of the IMPACT GRANTS initiative, the JCFR is proud to announce Honeymoon Israel, which will help in “bringing in” members of our community who are “on the fringes.” About 20 Richmond-based couples with at least one Jewish partner will participate in an enriching, provocative, fun and inspirational nine-day experience in Israel with an affordable price tag of $1,800 per couple including all flights and ground costs. The first Richmond-based trip is Nov. 2-12. It’s the first time an intermediate community will be part of Honeymoon Israel. 

Our goal is to provide participants with the ability to create a social network of peer couples with similar experiences and backgrounds, and help them begin an exploration of how they can incorporate Judaism into their relationship and family in whatever way is meaningful for them. (For more, see Page 5)

Community Research Study:

In another important initiative, the JCFR and the Richmond Jewish Foundation have joined forces to assess the state of our Jewish community in 2017. This new research effort should yield a wealth of information about the Jewish community in-and-around  Richmond with respect to community needs, wants, interests and values.  More importantly, the study will provide JCFR and RJF with actionable insights that will support leadership decisions and strategy formation going forward. 

The first phase of the process known as the Community Exploration begins this month. The phase is designed to actively engage a wide variety of individuals in discussion around critical issues via both in-depth interviews and focus groups. 

It will be followed by a community-wide survey (online and telephone) in Phase 2 –   Community Evaluation.  The research study is being conduction by the Melior Group, our Community Study consultants. I will share more details on the study during the year.   (For more, see the article on Page 5) There will be ample information on this and other initiatives in future columns in 2017. 

Fulfilling our important advocacy role in the community, JCRC will host Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day on Feb. 8.  Co-sponsored with Richmond Hadassah and the JCRC’s from across Virginia, community members will meet with Commonwealth Delegates, Senators and senior members of the executive branch to advocate for our agenda at the General Assembly Building and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. (See Page 5)

Annual Campaign:

Also, the 2017 Annual Campaign is racing to the finish to provide the resources to our Allocations Committee and IMPACT GRANTS process, which will begin their proceedings soon. Campaign Closing is on March 22 at the home of Lisa and Seth Kaplan.

One last area where we are active is in community missions.  We have had the following 10 missions in the last 6 years:

• 2016 Food & Wine Adventure (Sherry Rose Mission)

• 2016 Interfaith Trip

• 2016 Campaigners Mission (Sherry Rose Mission)

• 2016 Ukraine Mission 

• 2015 Interfaith Trip

• 2014 Interfaith Trip

• 2014 Campaigners Mission (Sherry Rose Mission)

• 2013 JFNA General Assembly Israel Mission (Sherry Rose Mission)

• 2011 JCFR 75th Anniversary (Sherry Rose Mission)

• 2010 Poland & Israel Mission (Sherry Rose Mission)

So, we always have something interesting to report to the community through the Reflector. As always, let me hear from you about this column or other things of importance at (804) 545-8622, or visit  


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