Almost 45 years ago, I moved to Richmond with a tiny baby, an adventurous spouse and zero friends or family. But, I was full of energy and optimism for our new life in a new city. And so, my journey began. While moving to a new city could have been very lonely, by joining Jewish organizations and a synagogue, I began to feel welcomed, accepted and more determined than ever to become a part of our new home.
I met like-minded community volunteers and wonderful, caring, supportive, lifelong friends and mentors. It was not long before I was invited to join various committees for the Federation, RJF, the Weinstein JCC, our synagogue and Beth Sholom Lifecare Community. Soon I was offered committee chairmanships. My journey to leadership was beginning.
I have been very fortunate to have had incredibly supportive and nurturing role models in my journey. Appreciation and thanks go to dedicated and patient Federation lay and professional leaders: Hortense Wolf, OBM, Neil November, Stuart Siegel, Richard November, Sam Asher, Stewart Kasen, Mark Sisisky, Ric Arenstein, Ellen Chernack, Marsha Horwitz, Albert Katz (OBM),and Dan Siegel, to name but a few.
In 1994, on my first Federation Mission to Israel, sitting in the outdoor synagogue on top of Masada, I was solicited to become a Lion of Judah for the Jewish Community Federation’s Annual Jewish Welfare Fund Campaign. It was sitting in that synagogue in Israel that I proudly began my unshakable connection to thousands of dedicated women all over the world, who share my commitment of healing and caring for our Jewish people, wherever the needs are present.
Shortly after returning from my trip to Israel, Hortense Wolf, my amazing mentor, role model, dear friend, past president of the Federation, OBM, invited me to lunch. It never dawned on me that she would ask me to serve as Women’s Division chairperson for our next JCFR Annual Campaign. I explained that I did not have much experience with this type of leadership and that I thought it would be best if I waited a few years. She put down her sandwich and looked me straight in the eye.
She said, “Deane, you do not have time to wait. It is your responsibility to lead now. You cannot say no to this important request. Your community and the world need you.”
I responded that I was concerned I would not be successful. She then took my hand in hers and said to me,“ You will accept this leadership role and you will be successful. No other choice remains.”
With guidance and support of the entire Federation professional staff, as well as lay leaders, success ensued and a new found confidence in my personal abilities and my desire to lead emerged.
From that success, came the confidence to accept other challenges and opportunities to lead. I moved forward to be the Chairman of the Board of Governors for the four facilities of the Beth Sholom Home in Richmond and Virginia Beach. I accepted the Chairmanship for the Allocations Committee, and accepted leadership positions on the Federation Board and the Executive Committee of the Federation.
Throughout my years of volunteering at the Federation, I have felt valued and appreciated. I feel that my opinions count. The professional staff has respected my time and my efforts. They are kind and caring and supportive. I have never once felt that decisions made at the Board level were predetermined by other leaders.
I am continually challenged to understand and process critical issues. The professional staff works hard to educate our Board members so that informed discussions and knowledgeable decisions will be made for the betterment of our local community members and agencies, for our country, and for our brothers and sisters around the world. I feel a deep sense of pride and renewed commitment when I see over and over again the unselfish acts of kindness and the genuine good that our Federation has done and continues to do for our local community and for the world.
After all these years, I stay involved in the work of the Federation because Hortenses’ words still ring true today. It is my Jewish responsibility to continue to lead. No other choice remains.
Deane Dubansky is a volunteer or the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond and a participant of 60 Days of IMPACT.