Donation concept

Among the congregations responding to the Jewish News’ inquiry about this year’s fundraising efforts, some indicated that funds generated this year would be allocated to help members impacted financially by COVID.

At some point during the solemn Kol Nidre service, Dr. Mark S. Roth, president of Congregation B’nai Moshe, will step up to his designated microphone in a practically empty sanctuary to deliver the synagogue’s annual fundraising appeal. Roth, the clergy, a few Torah readers and a handful of choir members will be the only ones there.

This yearly campaign is one of the congregation’s prominent fundraisers, and, for the first time, it’s one that B’nai Moshe members will hear during a live-stream service.

Because of COVID-19, there will be no packed sanctuaries or security guards directing traffic. Synagogues and temples will be empty this year as Jews gather in front of screens or at scaled-down outdoor services.

Congregation leaders spent the last several months planning for High Holiday services amid a global pandemic that prevents large gatherings. Part of their planning included how to address the various fundraising campaigns that typically take place in conjunction with the start of the Jewish New Year.

Among the congregations responding to the Jewish News’ inquiry about this year’s fundraising efforts, some indicated that funds generated this year would be allocated to help members impacted financially by COVID. Others are giving dollars to capital improvements and programming.

“We typically have a High Holiday Appeal that is launched at the holidays,” said Brian D. Fishman, executive director of Temple Shir Shalom. “This year will be no exception except that the money we raise will go to our COVID-19 Emergency Fund campaign.”

Similarly, Alan Yost, executive director of Adat Shalom Synagogue, said money generated from this year’s appeal would help the congregation provide membership dues adjustments, religious school tuition scholarships, camp tuition assistance and other needs based on financial need. Funds raised in years past went to projects such as building upgrades and renovations and purchasing new siddurs for the congregation.

At B’nai Moshe, campaign revenue will “help move the synagogue forward rather than maintain the status quo,” Roth said. “We’re trying to develop innovative programs to attract more young adults and young families to the synagogue as well as cover the costs of routine expenses.”

Before making his pitch for donations, Roth will spend a few minutes thanking clergy and leadership for making necessary modifications to meet the congregation’s needs, especially during the High Holidays.

“They recognized that no one was going to sit in front of a screen for five hours, and they worked hard to shorten the service while maintaining the traditions. It’s a lot like in ancient times when Judaism could have died out after the temple’s destruction but didn’t. They modified and persevered.”

Israel Bonds’ Virtual Tabs

The impacts of High Holiday fundraising will also be felt by Israel Bonds and Yad Ezra, as both entities have in-service appeals. However, the unprecedented online connectivity will allow Israel Bonds to reach out to a broader audience through virtual tab cards and a video message.

According to Israel Maimon, president and CEO of Israel Bonds, $100 million in bonds are typically sold during the High Holiday period. During this pandemic, his goal is to maintain that level, he said.

This year marks the 29th anniversary of Yad Ezra’s holiday appeal, in which congregants bring bags of nonperishable food and monetary donations to Kol Nidre services.

Typically, the organization collects between 24,000 and 28,000 pounds of food. This year flyers went out asking that collected food be dropped off at the food bank. Some congregations requested envelopes to distribute to members.

While it’s not Yad Ezra’s largest fundraising campaign, the holiday appeal is crucial because it helps the organization raise awareness and maintain community visibility.

“The beauty of the food drive is that it’s a way to remind people to teach their children that there are others who are struggling and people who don’t have a choice of three different kinds of cereal in the morning,” said Lea Luger, executive director of Yad Ezra.

“As an organization, we can buy cereal cheaper than a family donating it, but this is a way to remind children that there are people in need.

“While our High Holiday appeal does help support our bottom line, it’s more of an educational promotion.”

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