Since moving to Richmond in 2011, I have been fortunate to witness the great power of community. The Jewish people are a unique people with a unique history, and with unity, greatness can be achieved. Many of my congregants are blessed to be able to go to a Jewish day school, a Jewish pre-school, a Jewish community center, or a Jewish senior life care campus, all because of the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond. The JCFR enriches the entire spectrum of our mid-sized community. All denominations feel comfortable coming together through the medium of Federation.
This past year, I was fortunate to be part of team that was selected for a novel initiative as part of the new Impact Grants program. The JCFR boldly decided to partner with us to help us launch the Jewish Student Union program in Central Virginia. All across the Commonwealth, students are able to take part in Christian programs during club hour at school. The NCSY youth organization began JSU in Los Angeles, California in 2002 to help give high school students a home to find out more about Jewish culture. Now over 12,000 students in hundreds of high schools across the country have the opportunity to eat, to hang out, and to learn about Jewish traditions with their friends and classmates. Local Henrico County schools have already begun to incorporate these exceptional programs on their respective campuses.
This is just one of many innovative ideas being spawned by the JCFR to help launch solutions to some of our 21st century challenges. As I meet the teenagers that are taking part, or will be taking part in this school year’s clubs, I have to take a moment to reflect on vital partnership and strategic interconnectedness. A rabbi in California had an idea; the idea percolates throughout the United States. Our team pitches it to the leaders of our local federation, and the high schoolers in our local towns benefit by developing a stronger sense of Jewish identity!
As we embark on this new year, let’s reflect on our gratitude for the Almighty granting us the good people who provide such a strong vision for Jewish Richmond through their work as part of the staff, and the lay leadership, that comprise community’s federation.
Rabbi Dovid Asher is spiritual leader of Keneseth Beth Israel (KBI) in Richmond, an honorary JCFR Executive Committee member, and is actively involved in Israel advocacy.