2013-12-06 / Front Page

The Mad Rush Begins

By Kirk Wisemay er
Act ing Executive Director Jewish Federation of Atlant ic & Cape May Counties

Kirk Wisemayer Kirk Wisemayer For many of our non-Jewish friends, neighbors and family, Thanksgiving is the official start of Christmas. They busy themselves with preparing and decorating for the holiday, planning meals and celebrations, sending holiday cards, and searching for the perfect gifts for those they know and love. It is like Pesach on steroids, and, as much as I complain about all of the preparation that precedes Pesach, at this time of year I tell myself how good it is to be Jewish!

As a Jew, I am saved, I tell myself, all of the mayhem of the Christmas season – other than being exposed to the music every minute of every day from Thanksgiving (and sometimes sooner) on – or so I think.

I am, however, if I am totally honest, deluding myself, because as a “Professional Jew” (as my friends call me), I have my own post-Thanksgiving mayhem – the mad rush to December 31, the end of the tax year and the close of Jewish Federation’s annual campaign.

Thoughts of the end result occupy every waking (and often the nonwaking) hour of every day, except, miraculously, Shabbat. I know this is true to some extent for our community’s volunteer leadership, and I most certainly know it is true for other “Professional Jews” whom I know in other communities. Will each donor who made a gift last year make one this year? Will we successfully draw enough new donors to the annual campaign? Will campaign equal or exceed last year’s campaign? The greatest failing in the Jewish world, the death knell for any Jewish Federation employee, is for campaign to slide downward; it does not matter why, all that matters, if and when it happens, is that it has.

All year long we plan campaign, we engage our donors, we invite their support of the many wonderful programs and services their generosity makes possible, and, yet, come Thanksgiving we realize that we still have so much to accomplish, so many more gifts to secure before December 31. I can feel the anxiety and the pressure build as each week melts away. I tell myself it will happen as I repeat in my head the words I heard repeatedly as child from the most determined and optimistic person ever (my mother), “that if you believe and never give up, everything is possible”.

Believe what? When push comes to shove this late in the game it is often difficult to remember why I do this, why I am not myself only a donor to the annual campaign, employed in some other capacity. No one ever asks me for my gift to the Jewish community and, yet, mine is always one of the first of the campaign and is always increased. It is not the largest of the campaign, but it is far from the smallest. It is a little more than I can realistically afford, but I would rather give a little more to the campaign than spend that money on things I do not really need and will only make me feel good temporarily. It is the Tzedakah I give through the year, to many worthy causes, and the other mitzvot I choose to perform, that defines who I am and gives value and meaning to my life. It is remembering this that sustains me; that allows me to push forward, it is knowing I am only a small part of a big machine, one Jew of many that make our Jewish community, the Jewish people, that gives meaning to my gift, purpose to my life and strength to my identity.

Remembering this on my own is next-to-impossible, but I am reminded every day by the remarkable dedication, tenacity and vision of our communal leadership and by the incredible commitment and generosity of every donor to the annual campaign. You are the beacons of Jewish life and values, of what is possible and why we can never give up. It is the incredible greatness we create together, as many individuals working together to create modern-day miracles. No other people comes close, no other people does it as well or with such purpose as the Jewish people.

In this mad post-Thanksgiving rush to December 31, and the close of this year’s annual campaign, it is sobering and very moving to realize that, just like the Christmas rush of our non-Jewish friends and family, and the cleaning frenzy that precedes Pesach, it is not really about what we are doing, how much we give or what we raise. All that really matters is that we each give what we can, that we remember all we do as a community we must do together, and that by doing so, even when we lose sight of it, we make great things possible. Thank you to each of you who made a gift to Campaign 2013 – and to each of who is yet to do so between now and December 31 – and thank you for the privilege and honor of serving the needs of One Jewish Community and the Jewish people.

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