Home Federation Federation CEO Column: Renewal, Rebirth and Rebuild

Federation CEO Column: Renewal, Rebirth and Rebuild


By Daniel Staffenberg
Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Community Federation of Richmond

Throughout our Jewish history we have had to rebuild – from the destruction of the Temple, to our exodus from Egypt, and as Survivors of the Holocaust. We have always been a resilient community.

2020 was challenging as we experienced difficult losses. Our resilience and strength has been tested time and again.

2021 will be a year of rebirth and renewal. As we see the COVID-19 vaccine penetrate the community, and our Agencies and Synagogues begin to reopen, and our lives slowly transition back to normal, we will face key opportunities and lessons from the past year.

It’s important to learn from and remember how lonely the separation from family and friends has been. For so many, locally and overseas, this feeling of loneliness was not an isolated experience.

Our community checked in on each other, worried about those we hadn’t seen, and connected to each other in new and exciting ways.

As we begin to gather again, celebrate Simchas, Shabbat dinners and community galas, let’s create space for those who hadn’t joined us before and actively reach out to those who are alone. When we gather to celebrate Pesach, hold our community events and gatherings, how can we truly welcome the stranger?

Resilience throughout 2020 meant that we dug a little deeper — philanthropically — in our volunteer work and in how we thought about working together. That simply can’t stop because the “storm” has passed.

We are grateful for those in our community who joined us to work together for understanding, and the common good. We also saw fissures and divides grow as we sought to tear down and diminish those we didn’t know or agree with.

Throughout our history we have been builders. We built a vibrant and dynamic homeland in Israel as well as numerous vital organizations that reached into and beyond our own community to improve our world.

As we emerge from the Pandemic, I pray we continue to build bridges of understanding, friendship, compassion, and resilience both inside and outside our Jewish world. This will not be easy, and will take significant financial and human resources, but it is vital to Jewish life today and for generations to come.

Federation itself has had to pivot, adapt and change over the past twelve months. Our volunteer and professional teams wrestled with increased needs, growing uncertainty and challenges to our own traditional models. We have worked diligently to engage in new and meaningful ways, provide sustaining funds to our partners, protect our community, and to be there for those who fell into distress both mentally and financially.

A colleague shared that we all experienced the same storm in 2020, however, each of us was in a different boat with some more stable and secure and others much more fragile.

May we all find stability, community and resilience in 2021.

Feel free to reach out to me at daniel@jewishrichmond.org.

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