Reflector News

Federation CEO Column: $18 changes the world!

Daniel Staffenberg
Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Community Federation of Richmond

We are in the homestretch of our annual effort to raise the financial resources needed to care for those in need, and strengthen Jewish life locally, in Israel and around the world.

This year the Federation’s Annual Campaign has been under pressure. We knew our agencies, community partners, Synagogues and numerous families would be facing significant challenges.

However, our Federation was built for times like these, and because of a significant economic downturn, we knew the road would be challenging. The increased needs for emergency financial support by our agencies and Synagogues are in the many millions, on top of our normal community needs.

Over the past six months, our Financial Resource Development team answered the call. Led by Campaign Chair Amy Nisenson, Women’s Philanthropy Chair Jill Goldfine, Development Director Jesse Feld and a dedicated lay and professional team, they got down to work.

They strategized, dreamed and planned, and the results have been outstanding. The average gift has increased by over 24%.

We welcomed over 294 new or recovered donors to the Campaign. Super Sunday went virtual, raising record amounts. Amy’s leadership focused on personal connection, and we have redoubled our efforts to connect personally with donors, sharing needs, opportunities and challenges honestly and openly.

Although we have seen increased donations, there is much more we need to do.

Calls to the Richmond Jewish Care Line have tripled, and the needs at our agencies continue to multiply and grow.

February is always a critical time for our fundraising efforts. It’s a time when we return to our historical roots. The first Jewish fundraising drive in history – the Half-Shekel census campaign – is outlined in our Torah.

As Moses was awaiting the commandments on the mountain, the Fundraiser in Chief, G-d, launched the first Federation Campaign, instructing everyone to give what they could to build the Temple.

Participation at that time was mandatory if you wanted to be counted as a part of the Jewish People.  You gave what you could and were counted, so all would benefit from giving and receiving of the communal Kupah.

It is time to turn to everyone in the community for your Half Shekel. Let’s all be counted and stand together to be sure our community emerges from the pandemic stronger and more vibrant.

Beyond these historical and biblical meanings, Federation has always believed each gift is symbolic of the varied people in our community. To create a community of compassion, openness and strength demands that we include each person. We regard and accept as precious what each individual brings to our Synagogue, our school and our organization.

Just as each gift was equally necessary to complete the Temple, so too is each person important. Not in comparison to others, but valued independently. Only then can we be sure that G-d will be present in our community.

And this leads me to the title of my article. Because each gift of $18, $26, $180 or $18,000 builds on the other and multiplies the good in our community, you can be sure your gift – your Half Shekel – will change a life. It will give a family a Shabbat dinner, a kid a Jewish experience and will touch the lives of Jews in need in over 70 countries around the world and Israel.

If you have given and could make another gift, or have not yet done so, or perhaps have never given, please be counted, and make your gift at Your Shekel matters!

Feel free to reach out to me at

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