CEO September 2015 Update

The Spirit of Our Community is Saving Lives

I recently heard G-d is often found in the people who help you in times of trouble. I witnessed this during the summer when I was hospitalized. Healthcare providers helped me and others when the chips were down.
In a book written by Rabbi Morris Margolies, “A Gathering of Angels,” he reviews many periods of Jewish history in which angels appear in Jewish texts. Margolies wrote the existence of angels (or not) never frees Jews of their responsibility for their own actions or their responsibility for one another.

The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond tries to build a better world for our people and ourselves. Through JCFR, we renew our commitment to Tikkun Olam – repairing the world –  and the belief that each life is precious.  Indeed, our sages teach us that saving one life is the equivalent of saving an entire world.

Recently the number of people going to Israel to make Aliyah has grown dramatically.  Aliyah from Ukraine for 2014 reached 5,840. Aliyah from Ukraine for 2015 will go even higher. Russian Jews are still going to Israel (2,958 for the first 6 months of 2015).  In 2014, 6,668 made Aliyah from France.  Jews around the world are making Aliyah out of need – Ukrainians, Ethiopians, etc.  The Jewish Agency provides resettlement services to these Jews escaping tyranny through the help of donations to the Annual Campaign of the JCFR and other Federations throughout  North America. The spirit of our community is helping people to change their lives.

The situation in Ukraine reminds me of what happened to the displaced persons after World War II.  Thank G-d there is an Israel for these people to go to and there is a JDC on the ground to help people in need.
In June, five Richmonders, Mark Sisisky, Richard Samet, Zach Sisisky, Michal Coffey and Matt Langsam were part of a Jewish Federations of North America/American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee mission to Ukraine. They saw firsthand, the many challenges facing the war-torn nation’s 350,000 Jews. This crisis speaks to the most fundamental reasons why Jewish Federations are so critical: We do not turn away. We make a difference.

So, as we begin the 2016 Annual Campaign remember the “Spirit of Our Community” touches many lives at home and abroad. There is often a box of food that saves a life in war torn Ukraine. Our spirit is evidenced by one volunteer in Richmond asking another volunteer to make a donation to a third person who needs help overseas.

We show our spirit through many acts of kindness during the Campaign. Our local agencies: the Weinstein JCC, Rudlin Torah Academy, Beth Sholom Lifecare Community and Jewish Family Services serve people every day who need our help. The spirit of our community is also made clear through the dedicated staff and volunteers of these agencies each and every day.

As we enter into the New Jewish Year of 5776, let us continue to build a better world through the spirit of our community.

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


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