Federation launches 2019 Annual Campaign

September 14, 2018

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The United Jewish Federation of Tidewater kicked-off its 2019 Annual Campaign to a standing room only crowd on Thursday, Sept. 6 at the Sandler Family Campus. Featured speaker Izzy Ezagui— IDF soldier and author—addressed the packed room, and kept the audience spellbound as he recounted the harrowing and heartening experiences of his life.

Laura Gross, Campaign chair, opened the program, thanking all for coming and for supporting the Federation’s Campaign, year in and year out. She also acknowledged the presence of many of the community’s agency board members. Gross briefly touched on some of last year’s campaign and programming highlights—particularly those surrounding the celebration of Israel at 70. Reminding all that donors make possible everything the Federation does— here, in Israel, and around the world, Gross described the Federation’s renewed emphasis on donor appreciation, referring to this year’s campaign theme: It starts with you.

Gross then acknowledged the Federation professionals and her 2019 Team of Volunteer Campaign leaders, including: Janet Mercadante, Women’s Division chair; Mona Flax, Women’s Division vice chair; Eliot Weinstein, Young Leadership Campaign chair; Danny Rubin, Young Leadership co-chair; Art and Steve Sandler, Men’s Major Gifts co-chairs; John Strelitz and Jay Klebanoff; and her event co-chair for the evening, Jason Hoffman.

Betty Ann Levin, UJFT executive vice president, spoke about her excitement in assuming her new role, and her enthusiasm for working with the Federation volunteers and professionals, before turning over the microphone to Nathan Jaffe.

This year’s kick-off event represented not only the official launch of the UJFT Annual Campaign, but also the Patron of the J Campaign and the Lee and Bernard Jaffe* Family Jewish Book Festival. On behalf of the Jaffe family, Jaffe spoke about the synergy of the evening, with three major community events taking place at once. “It brings together members of the community with various interests, but who share a common love for— and desire to—sustain Jewish culture and Jewish life,” he said. “My parents, Lee and Bernard Jaffe, would be so pleased to have been here tonight, not only to see close friends, but to celebrate those aspects of Jewish community which were most near and dear to them.”

Jaffe then introduced featured speaker, Izzy Ezagui, who came to Tidewater under the auspices of the (national) Jewish Book Council, referring to him as “a brave and tenacious soldier and a proud defender of Israel.”

Ezagui captivated the audience with the story of his young adult life—from his family’s decision to make aliyah (move to Israel); to his joining the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), where he became an accomplished combat sniper; to the combat injury which took his dominant arm. And that was just the prologue! The real story began in the aftermath of what could have been a hope ending and career ending catastrophic injury. True to his warrior instincts, Ezagui fought his way back from weakness and despair…all the way back to active service as a combat soldier in the IDF. His story was, by turns: horrifying, sad, funny, and ultimately inspiring. Ezagui’s broader story is told in greater depth and detail in his new book, Disarmed: Unconventional Lessons from the World’s Only One-Armed Special Forces Sharpshooter (Prometheus Books, March 20, 2018), which will be sold during the Lee and Bernard Jaffe* Family Jewish Book Festival at the Simon Family JCC, throughout the month of November.

Jason Hoffman, Kick-off co-chair, closed the evening by telling his own personal story. He described how he and his wife, Denise, and his entire family, were embraced by the Tidewater Jewish community. He also talked about their determination to be examples for their children. In his remarks, Hoffman discussed the many top-quality programs and services that Tidewater’s Jewish community offers, pointing out that it takes dollars to provide those programs, and it takes donors to provide those dollars. “It’s a responsibility that we all share.”

Hoffman recalled a conversation with Art Sandler, which took place just after he’d joined the Federation’s board of directors. “I am responsible for the community that you live in,” Sandler had told him. And those words stayed with Hoffman. As he encouraged all in the room to make their Federation campaign gifts of support that night, Hoffman added that he too…he and Denise, and all who support the work of the Federation through the annual campaign— are responsible for the community that we live in.”

The evening closed with best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year.

To make a gift of support to the 2019 annual campaign of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, call the Federation office at 965-6115 or go to www.jewishva.org/donation. Amy Zelenka is UJFT’s Women’s Campaign director. She may be reached at azelenka@ujft.org.

*of blessed memory

Letter to the Editor