Women’s Spring Lunch brings joy and tears

June 23, 2022

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Sometimes, a topic touches so close to one’s heart that it’s impossible to ignore it or turn away. On Wednesday, June 1, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Women’s Cabinet hosted its annual Spring Lunch at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach. The topic that resonated with everyone there was…Ukraine.

This was the first in-person Spring lunch since 2019 (due to COVID restrictions) and Barbara Dudley, Women’s Cabinet chair, opened it with her thanks to all who helped to make this year’s Federation Community Campaign a success. She further thanked those who went “beyond” by supporting the Tidewater Ukraine Emergency Fund, whose funds will help meet the overwhelming needs of Jewish communities caught in the crossfire of the war with Russia. That support will undoubtedly grow in the months to come. Tidewater’s Jewish community will continue to assist in every way possible.

After installing returning Cabinet members and bidding farewell to those whose terms were ending (and who were rotating off Cabinet), Dudley thanked her outgoing co-chair, Mona Flax, for extending her term an extra year (thereby ensuring uninterrupted leadership at Cabinet meetings and events, even if one or the other of them began traveling once COVID restrictions were lifted!). Dudley presented Flax with a beautiful modern menorah.

“Jewish tradition is replete with references to light,” said Dudley. “From ‘Let there be light…’ in the creation story… to the oft used phrase describing the Jewish People as a ‘light unto the nations.’ That light unto the nations is the light of inspiration, which illuminates a path and encourages others to follow… and Mona has been that for all of us; inspiring others to join in building and strengthening Jewish community here and around the world. This menorah is perfect for you; it combines traditional values with contemporary aspirations for a more just and equitable future.”

A brief campaign report showed the success of this year’s fundraising. Borrowing from the Passover Haggadah, Dudley listed some of those successes: “Annual Campaign in excess of $4.81 million. Dayenu! Add to that an additional $678,000 raised for the Tidewater Ukraine Emergency Fund. Dayenu! And another $750,000 raised for campaigns other than the annual campaign—Patron of the Arts, Red Rose, White Rose, Film Festival, Israel Fest, and other fundraising efforts of the Federation and Simon Family JCC. Dayenu! Ours is truly a remarkable community.”

And even more remarkable is the impact these campaigns are making here at home and in places around the Jewish world.

The featured speaker for the lunch was Sandy Katz, senior director of Strategic Relations, at the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)—the Federation’s overseas service delivery partner—who just returned from the Polish border with Ukraine, where she had been working with colleagues to help meet the immediate and longer-term needs of Jews (and others) coming into Poland (and surprisingly, some returning to Ukraine).

Katz brought three photographs with her. They showed a handful of the refugees she encountered during her time in Poland and illustrated the incredible challenges facing these families—almost all of them women and children and very old men. These are children who will deal with post-traumatic stress for a very long time, having experienced bombings and witnessing death all around them—living in a constant state of fear, not to mention hunger and thirst.

Katz’s accounts were heartbreaking. She thanked the Tidewater community and its generous donors on behalf of the families who were able to receive assistance from JDC, because of the funds raised here.

Laura Gross, UJFT president, then closed the event with her own thanks to the women in the room: those who have served, those who continue to serve, and those who may someday serve on Women’s Cabinet. With additional thanks to the Federation and Tidewater Jewish Foundation professionals, as well as the donors, Gross called for a close to the lunch, wished all a great summer, and reminded everyone about upcoming events and activities in the community.

For more information about the UJFT Community Campaign, Women’s Division, or Ukraine Emergency Appeal, contact Amy Zelenka, UJFT’s chief development officer, at azelenka@ujft.org or 757-965-6139.

Photography by Mark Robbins

-Amy Zelenka

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