Since childhood, I have been driven by a need to be involved, to make one person less desperate, to give someone a sigh of relief by taking a weight off. I have rolled up my sleeves more often that I can count to assist with meaningful causes. The drive to resolve injustices has pushed me to volunteer for tasks that are beyond my comfort zone.
I did not guess, having arrived in Richmond nearly 30 years ago, that I would be welcomed unconditionally into a city that had a historic reputation of being closed to newcomers, nor that so many avenues to combating injustices would be available to me. The warmth of the secular and Richmond Jewish community matched its reputation of charm and graciousness.
In 1986, with a group of determined young leaders, I helped develop JCFR’s Young Adult Division. Our travels to Israel and adventurous activities were unparalleled and helped us forge a bond that remains today. I have been fortunate to be accepted in Richmond as I am, without judgment.
You cannot map your future, only stay true to your determination and dreams.
My role as Chair of the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) last year presented me with my most challenging volunteer role yet. JCRC works to improve the perception of our Jewish communal family through education, outreach and advocacy. JCRC is all about correcting injustices, fighting anti-Semitism and discrimination as well as eliminating negative perceptions in the media, in the classroom, in the legislature, and even in our own Jewish Community.
When the conversation turns to result in balance and resolution instead of blame, recrimination, and defensiveness, we will have succeeded in reducing injustice.
I have accepted more volunteer roles than I have had time to manage, but doing so has led me to had extraordinary opportunities where I have met exceptional people. Through JCFR, I learned to gently ask for a precious commodity that affords solutions to problems – donations – for urgent needs at home and overseas that most of us do not even realize exist until Beth Sholom Home, or the JCC, or JFS, or the Joint Distribution Committee make us aware of them.
Once I had powerful skills and a comfort level, the Federation then became my introduction to endowed giving through our Richmond Jewish Foundation. The needs we meet today and the problems that will need solutions in the future cry out for today’s Jewish community to create methods to fund their gifts for generations to come.
I hold myself to a standard I learned from my parents and from Judaism; it is my obligation as Jew and as a human to see a slight, injustice, or problem and work toward the common goal of creating the key to fix it. We all need to volunteer in our own way, and we need to do it now.
Frances F. Goldman is Chair of the Jewish Community Relations Committee, the advocacy arm of the JCFR.