CEO November 2017 Update

Change is a constant in the Jewish Community

Since I have a September birthday, I have often shared my birthday with a more serious occasion. This year my birthday fell on Rosh Hashanah.  Michele and I had the pleasure of  attending a family dinner in Westchester, N.Y., hosted by my son, Adam, and his wife, Jacki. It was a lovely holiday and birthday dinner and was topped off by the announcement that the two of them are expecting a child in March.  Now that was a birthday present!! 

We all know that in some years the High Holidays arrive in early September and in others they can begin as late as the first week of October.  Then, of course, we begin these holidays on the evening preceding the first full day of the holiday, which often confounds those not familiar with our customs, rituals and celebrations.  

The Hebrew calendar brings change with it every year when it is aligned with the secular calendar.  With all the challenges that confront us in the Jewish world, Federation professionals and volunteers are often instructed to “embrace change” and to “be flexible.”  It seems only fitting and entirely appropriate that change and flexibility start with the Hebrew calendar that defines the rhythm and pace of Jewish life.  It allows us to celebrate and remember sacred and special occasions and events on more than one particular secular calendar day from year to year.  

Change, therefore, is something we are used to as Jews.  In Jewish Communal work, we also are dealing with change on a regular basis.  We have seen much of it in the past year.

The week that this issue of the Reflector hits the homes, the Navigate the Future of Richmond’s Jewish Community Study Committee will receive the initial findings of its study.  What I am excited to tell you is the study findings will help us chart new directions for the community well into the future.  

Almost 800 members of our community took the survey, making it a very robust and useful tool. Nearly 800 respondents took (on average) 35 minutes to provide thoughtful answers to the online survey.  Dozens more participated in the qualitative research. These respondents really care about our community.  They take pride in their community as do the1,416 donors to the 2017 JCFR Annual Campaign and the hundreds of donors and volunteers of our synagogues and beneficiary/affiliated agencies.  

In the coming months we will learn more about the results of the study and the Navigate the Future Committee will lead us into a planning process that will take us into 2018 and beyond to help us chart our course.

On November 2, a Honeymoon Israel group from Richmond will leave for Israel. The group is generously funded by private donors and an IMPACT GRANT from the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond.  We are the only Intermediate Community to be approved for participation in Honeymoon Israel. The trip dates are November 2–12 and we have 34 participants.

The vision is that every committed couple with at least one Jewish partner will possess the basic knowledge, inspiration, support system, and sense of belonging to build a family with meaningful connections to Jewish life and the Jewish people, thereby enhancing and strengthening the Jewish community. We wish our travelers well and know they will come back to our community inspired and dedicated to action from the trip.

About two years ago, when I wrote this column, I talked about staff changes and the addition of Bonnie Hite, Doni Fogel and Jesse Feld to our staff.  Now it’s time for me to talk about changes in my own professional career. As you read on page 1, I am completing my tenure as the CEO of the Federation and taking the reins of the Virginia Holocaust Museum on January 2, 2018. 

As Marcus Weinstein, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said in a recent letter to the Board of the Virginia Holocaust Museum: “As VHM enters its 21st year, the Board is energized by Sam’s enthusiasm and is confident in his abilities to take VHM to the next level. We are eager to work with him to grow and expand the Museum in new directions.” 

I am very proud and honored to take this positon as executive director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum.

As we consider the changes in our lives during the past year and we look expectantly with optimism and hope to the New Year of 5778, I want to wish all of you a happy and healthy New Year. May we go from strength to strength in building our community and our Jewish world.

As always, contact me at (804) 545-8622 or email sasher@jewishrichmond.org.