CEO October 2015 Update

Change is Constant in the Jewish World

Since I have a September birthday, I have often shared my birthday with a more solemn occasion. This year my birthday, again, falls on Yom Kippur. So, I will have an introspective birthday and will have to wait to have a birthday dinner on the weekend. 

But what is evident is we don’t have a fixed date for our holidays like – Christmas that is always on December 25. Why is this?

In some years the High Holidays arrive in early September and in others they can begin as late as the first week of October. Then of course, we begin these holidays on the evening preceding the first full day of the holiday that often confounds those not familiar with our customs, rituals, and celebrations.  

The Hebrew calendar brings change with it every year when it is aligned with the secular calendar.  With all the challenges that confront us in the Jewish world, Federation professionals and volunteers are often instructed to ‘embrace change’ and to ‘be flexible.’ 
It seems only fitting and entirely appropriate that change and flexibility start with the Hebrew calendar that defines the rhythm and pace of Jewish life.  It allows us to celebrate and remember sacred and special occasions and events on more than one particular secular calendar day from year to year.  

Change, therefore, is something we are used to as Jews. In Federation work, we also are dealing with change on a regular basis. We have seen much of it in the past year.

What has changed? Over this past year we have implemented a change in our allocations system. The Ad Hoc Committee on Allocations Procedures, chaired by Jim Weinberg, supervised a three-year process that brought us a hybrid allocations system and the Impact Grants process.

Impact Grants are intended to inspire individuals, organizations, Synagogues, and agencies to provide innovative and impactful engagement programs and services that support and enhance the Jewish community of Richmond.  

The areas of community priorities were created from numerous focus group meetings comprised of diverse members of our community. The priorities chosen were: Engaging Interfaith Families in Jewish Activities, Initiatives to Improve the Lives of Jewish Seniors and Older adults and Opportunities for Youth to Strengthen their Jewish identities.

I am proud to report the results of this inaugural effort. The Impact Grants Committee, chaired by Amy Nisenson, certainly had its work cut out for them, and they tackled it with vigor and enthusiasm. The end result was financial support for 5 new or enhanced programming opportunities for our community!

KiRVA is modeled on the JFS-friendly visitor and telephone reassurance programs. The collaboration with Congregation Beth Ahabah is going to be expanded to include Temple Beth-El.

KBI Jewish Student Union 
Jewish Student Union clubs provide a framework for Jewish public school students to learn more about their Jewish root and enhance their Jewish Identity.

RTA Midor l’dor 
In conjunction with the Weinstein JCC Senior Adults Program, JFS and Beth Sholom, RTA will build strong and consistent connections with seniors in the Richmond area. Programs will include visits by RTA students to senior facilities as well as seniors’ visiting RTA classrooms, attending performances and sharing holiday means and celebrations.

Weinstein JCC EnRich 
The collaborative program (Weinstein JCC and JFS) will provide monthly programming that meets the social, mental and physical needs of individuals 65 and older. Different tracks will be developed to meet the senior’s needs.

Beth Sholom Elder Abuse Advocacy 
The Beth Sholom Prevent Elder Abuse Program will provide education to the larger Jewish community about the nature of abuse, the potential for caregiver burden, the highly charged dynamics that can occur in stressful situations.      

This past year, JCFR’s Senior Leadership Institute (SLI) program was created in an effort to facilitate the continuous development of Richmond’s Jewish community leadership. The eight-month program cultivates a cohort of motivated, educated, and enthusiastic leaders within the Richmond Jewish community while giving participants the necessary skills, inspiration and confidence to seek out future senior level leadership positions within our agencies and synagogues. 

The 2015 graduates of this program are: Melanie Binshtok, Mark Binshtok, Michal Coffey, Bari Cohen, Leslie Cohen, John Minor, Gary Goldberg, Frances Goldman, Robin Jackson, Adam Nelson, Andrew Pegalis and Heather Rosenberg, along with co-chairs, Nannette and Nathan Shor.

Finally, we have made a number of staff changes this year. Bonnie Hite joined our staff in February and is doing a great job as our new controller. 

Doni Fogel joined our staff in July as our new director of JCRC/Israel & Overseas Programming and also is doing a great job.

Jesse Feld will be joining our staff in October as our new Young Adult organizer. Jesse has been working for the Knoxville, Tenn., Federation and we look forward to his move here.

As we consider the changes in our lives during the past year and we look expectantly with optimism and hope to the New Year of 5776, I want to wish all of you a happy and healthy New Year. May we go from strength to strength in building our community and our Jewish world. 

As always, I welcome comments and feel free to email me at


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