Israeli Knesset Member Alon Tal joins in the festivities via Zoom.
On a clear 70-degree Sunday at the end of September, the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor welcomed its Major and Legacy donors for an afternoon of togetherness and pride in the local Jewish community at the Major Gifts Event, featuring Israeli Knesset Member Alon Tal.
The first “hybrid” in-person/virtual event that Federation has held, nearly 100 guests gathered at the Polo Fields Golf & Country Club, with another 40 logging in to Zoom to participate. In-person attendees enjoyed “high tea-inspired” finger sandwich appetizers, while virtual participants received goody bags delivered to their homes. At the Polo Fields, those in attendance caught up with old friends and met new ones in the open air of a patio overlooking lush rolling hills. The refrain of “how nice” it was to see everyone “in real life” was heard over and over. The event was chaired by Robin and Brad Axelrod, and Ed and Mona Goldman.
The Major Gifts Event is an annual celebration that has traditionally been open to community members who donate $5,000 or more to Federation’s Annual Community Campaign, as well as to those under the age of 40 who give $1,000 or more. This year, that group was expanded to include members of our community who have committed to an after-lifetime gift to Federation through the LIFE & LEGACY program. Together, Ann Arbor Federation’s generous major donors raised over $980,000 for the 2021 Annual Community Campaign and are poised to make an equally impressive impact for the 2022 Campaign, which launched September of this year and will extend through May 2022.
Taking Care of One Another
At its core, the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor’s Annual Community Campaign is how we, as a community, take care of one another. In partnership with Federation’s beneficiary organizations, the Campaign builds and sustains our local and worldwide Jewish community. The money raised from the Annual Community Campaign goes straight to our most needed community organizations, including the JCC, Jewish Family Services and Hillels at U-M and EMU.
It also supports older adults living in poverty in the former Soviet Union and a youth movement for children with disabilities in Israel, among other overseas organizations. The Campaign allows these beneficiary organizations to focus on their missions of serving the community without having to worry about raising the funds needed to cover the costs of personnel and program supplies. Federation is proud of the work of these partners and is deeply grateful to all the donors who make their work possible. For more information on money raised and allocated to the community, visit JewishAnnArbor.org to view Federation’s 2021 Annual Impact Report.
A Leading Climate Advocate
With community impact on their minds, attendees at the Major Gifts Event finished up the cocktail hour by pulling their masks back over their faces and moving from the outdoor patio to a spacious indoor ballroom. There, they were treated to an exceptional program featuring Member of the Knesset (MK) Tal.
A leading climate activist in Israel, Tal was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was active in the Zionist youth movement Young Judaea, which eventually led him to make aliyah to Israel as a young adult.
Tal has had an illustrious academic career, earning a law degree from Hebrew University and a master’s and doctorate in environmental health policy from Harvard’s School of Public Health. He has served as chair of the Department of Public Policy at Tel Aviv University since 2017 and has also held several visiting professorships around the world, including at Michigan State University.
Moving his activism to the political sphere, Tal was among the founders of Israel’s Green Movement party and became its chair in 2010. He then joined the Blue & White Party led by Israel’s current Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz. When Israel formed a new government in the summer of 2021, Tal became a member of Knesset.
Although it was nearly midnight in Israel by the time he began to address the crowd over Zoom, MK Tal opened the program on a note of hope: “In 5782, we have seen the wonderful blessings of democracy,” he said, “and how a peaceful transition of power can take place.”
He went on to describe his excitement and hope for the future of Israeli society, his legislative priorities around the environment and religious pluralism in Israel, and the need to address what he called a “domestic crisis” with regard to the increase in domestic violence against women during the pandemic.
As he spoke, Tal invoked the idea of the shemitah year, a year of rest built into Jewish tradition. Originally intended as a year to let one’s fields lay fallow in order for the land to rest, Tal reimagined 5782 as a shemitah from focusing on issues that divide our communities, and instead turning our attention to areas where we can find common ground.
“[This program] was what we needed to take our minds off trouble in America,” one attendee noted afterward. Another called it a “joyous reunion!” Indeed, it was a wonderful way to feel a sense of community and to celebrate the generosity of those who support the most vulnerable in our community and enrich Jewish life in greater Ann Arbor, in Israel, and around the world.
For more information about the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, or to make a gift to the 2022 Annual Community Campaign, visit JewishAnnArbor.org or contact Federation’s Communications & Development Manager Rachel Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org or (734) 773-3533.