The following remarks were made by Jewish Community Federation of Richmond CEO Daniel Staffenberg at the Federation's Annual Meeting, May 30th, 2019:
Good evening. It feels good to be together on nights like this doesn’t it? We celebrate the best of each other, and we’re reminded of the good in our world and the power of our collective action.
Mazel Tov to Howard, Robyn, Eliot and Franklin. Each of you are extremely deserving of the honor you received tonight and elevate us and our community each day. Thank you for all you do!
I also want to congratulate and recognize our good friend Mark Sisisky. Mark will be representing out great City as the President of our partner the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, JDC beginning in December. The role of JDC President is one of the most important and impactful volunteer roles in the Jewish world. JDC is the leading Jewish humanitarian assistance organization in the world and represents our best values of chesed (caring) and Tzedek, (justice). It says a great deal about Mark, his passion and leadership, and our own Richmond community, that he would be selected to lead this amazing organization. Mark we know you will be a gift to the system and we are all here to support you in your role!
Ellen Renee, my friend….. There are no words to appropriately describe how much I appreciate your partnership and your dedicated leadership to our community. I am guessing you would agree that it was an interesting year full of some great laughs and some unforeseen surprises….. yet through it all, through your own personal challenges…..there you were….at every meeting, always present, thoughtful and caring. You are an inspiration, to me and to each one of us. Our community is stronger because you lead it and our Federation is grateful for your leadership, I can’t wait to see what is ahead for next year!
To our JCFR Professional Team. Thank You. You inspire us every day with your hard work, dedication and commitment. We are blessed to have so many talented and dedicated individuals working on our behalf. We are better because of each of you!
At our first meeting together after she assumed the Presidency, Ellen Renee and I laid out a variety of goals for the year. I am proud we have accomplished a great many of them and …..Well sometimes Man Plans and G-d Laughs……….
We identified a few Key priorities…. raising the resources needed to support and sustain our community, Connecting Richmond to Israel and Global Jewry, Creating a Welcoming, secure and connected community for all and to drive collaborative initiatives to secure our community today and in the future.
And the truth is…. WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED A GREAT DEAL…
We strengthened our connections with political leaders, hosting meetings with Federal, State and Local officials and welcoming a record crowd to Virginia Advocacy Day. Insuring that our communal voice was heard!
We redoubled our Fundraising efforts around relationship building, with agencies, synagogues, individuals and our general community. It paid off with new advocates and partnerships throughout our community.
These efforts worked as we raised over $3 million dollars in overall funding and grew our Annual Campaign for the first time in many years.
We took a lead role in addressing critical issues for our community including Harassment prevention training, LGBTQ outreach and Inclusion. We continue to work toward our goal of making sure Jewish RVA is open and accessible to every member of our community.
We partnered with agencies across the community to provide high quality programming, information and education touching every corner of our community. PJ Library, Mister G concert, Kristallnacht, Israel Fest, Chanukkah, and joint Messages from our Rabbi’s are just a few such examples
We strengthened our connections with Israel through one on one partnerships, welcoming 5 young Israeli’s from our and doubling our Richmond participation in the Tikkun Olam programming with our Partnership city of Hadera, Israel.
For the first time Weinstein JCC’s Camp Hilbert will welcome two young adults from our Partnership city of Zaparozhye…. further connecting and building on our partnership and connecting our next generation with Jewish life from around the globe.
We also strengthened our internal systems, as we transitioned to a new database allowing us to be more nimble, professional and personal.
These are just a few of the many accomplishments of this year….I could go on and on….but as I mentioned, this year we faced quite a few unforeseen challenges as well.
We felt the trauma as rockets were fired on our brothers and sisters in Israel. We were troubled and challenged as political discourse turned ugly and cracks in our community grew.
We faced firsthand the rising tide of hate and Anti-Semitism. We mourned together after the massacre in Pittsburgh and again in Poway. Our hearts ached as we the pictures of hate and Anti-Semitism in Europe scrolled across our timelines… and we heard of Jews being told not to wear their traditional Kippot, for fear of attack.
And here, right in our own backyard, we saw the hateful, hurtful graffiti recalling and opening the wounds of our darkest days.
In my twenty plus years as a Jewish Communal Professional we have faced a great many challenges.
However, never have those challenges been about our CORE safety and security as a Jewish community. Unfortunately that is no longer true. Securing our community has become one of our most critical priorities….
Federation has been at the forefront of the effort to secure our institutions for many years. We know that preparation saves lives, we know that our partners struggle with increased security costs and the challenge of building safe environments that remain inclusive, welcoming and open to all.
We can simply no longer live with the idea that it won’t happen here…….. it sadness me to say that about a community I have quickly grown to love.
Last week our Federation took a critical step to address these issues. To build off of the work of the Richmond Jewish Foundation and our own Federation investment in security over the past many years.
Our Executive board approved the hiring of a Regional Security Director. In partnership with SCN, the security community network, the recognized leader for securing the American Jewish Community. This will allow us to bring professional, highly trained leadership to Richmond and our central Virginia community including the Peninsula, Charlottesville and Petersburg. Many communities have already benefited from similar efforts and the truth is, the Security Director in Pittsburgh saved lives, and averted what could have been an even greater tragedy. This is a critical step for our community and I am proud that Federation has made this commitment.
And here is where you can help…..we know that increased security costs are now part of our regular life and the budget implications are significant. Stretching resources and moving critical dollars away from our core work of community building, connection and support.
Tonight we are launching a special security fund to help our agencies, synagogues and community offset these costs. The funds will be used to provide lifesaving training, hardening and support to offset these growing costs, which today amount to about $250,000 A YEAR.
I hope you will consider joining us in securing our community by making a gift.
I want to say thank you to each of you.
Our Federation makes amazing things happen every day, and there is no organization with the depth and breadth of impact we have. We are able to respond at a moment’s notice here in RVA, in Israel or in communities across the globe. We are able to act today, because we were there yesterday and we will be there tomorrow. Our system is in place 24/7 365 and can reach any Jew at any point.
You make that happen and for that I am forever grateful.
I look forward to an amazing year ahead. I hope you will each join us on our Mission to Israel next April. It is going to be an amazing opportunity for our community and it will also be a ton of fun!!!! I also urge you to volunteer, get involved, show up and be counted…. We need you!
I thank each of you for sharing our values of caring for those in need, building a vibrant Jewish community and supporting Jewish life. Chazak Chazak V’netchazek.. From Strength to Strength!