By Sharon Wisch-Ray
It was a crisp night on the SMU campus and the program in McFarlin Auditorium on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 29, was equally exhilarating: great music by Matisyahu; brief, yet moving speeches; a campaign video with powerful images; and, wrapping it up in a tidy “hot pocket,” comedian Jim Gaffigan.
Philanthropy was in the air at One Night, The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ major fundraiser for the 2017 Campaign.
Matisyahu, who shed his Hassidic garb for jeans and dreadlocks several years ago, performed a concise set of three songs, Hinei Ma Tov, Surrender and perennial favorite One Day. He amazed the crowd with his beat boxing.
Federation Board Chair Dan Prescott welcomed the almost 1,800 attendees, of whom about a quarter were young adults.
“This evening we are one community gathered for laughter, for inspiration, for philanthropy, and we are here to show the rest of the world that we can pull together and share the pride in who we are and what we have accomplished as a community, laying all differences aside. And, ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you we have accomplished a lot.”
Prescott outlined the many accomplishments and important programs that the Federation has been able to subsidize through its campaign efforts.
One focused effort has been the Federation’s leadership in dealing with the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.
“We have, through the work of our Dallas Jewish Federation continued the fight against BDS — Boycott Divestment and Sanctions — against the State of Israel, and we are taking the fight beyond our high schools and our college campuses right to the capital in Austin, and we will help pass a law saying if you choose to participate as a company in BDS you will not be allowed by law to conduct business with the state of Texas,” Prescott said.
Prescott was referring to “A Day at the State: Legislative Mission to Austin” on Feb. 22, when a Dallas delegation will join others from across Texas to advocate on the Texas anti-BDS bill (to sign up to attend, call 214-615-5293).
Following his remarks, the crowd watched a brief video demonstrating poignantly Campaign dollars in action.
Congregation Shearith Israel Rabbi Adam Roffman made the case for giving. He shared how he and his wife Rabbi Shira Wallach, also of Shearith, had assimilated into the Dallas Jewish community four years ago, making it their home and raising their 2-year-old daughter. And then in a story which every parent in the room was sure to relate to, he shared an anecdote which encapsulates the essence of Jewish education — a hallmark of the Federation at work.
“…We’ve come to appreciate the importance of a very necessary tool in keeping her happy and keeping us sane — a consistent bedtime routine. Every night, we give her a bath, put on her PJs, read her a book, or two or four or seven. And then we wrap both of our arms around her, hold her close, and do what Jewish parents have been doing for generations. We lay her down ever so gently in her crib and we sing the Shema, the ancient words that affirm our faith in the source of life and in the sacred path that gives that life meaning and purpose.
“But a few months ago, as we were going through our nightly ritual, something unexpected and quite miraculous happened. As Shira and I began to sing, on her own, Hannah took her hand, and with great enthusiasm, plastered it over her eyes, mimicking the gesture of concentration that we have all been taught at some point in our lives.”
Roffman explained that this action was not one that he and his wife — both rabbis — had taught their young daughter, but one she had learned at her Jewish preschool, Levine Academy, which is one of many programs supported by the Federation.
“Watching my daughter’s neshama, her Jewish soul, blossom before my eyes, I came to truly appreciate the incredible power of what this community can do for the Jewish people. Imagine how many of those moments we can make possible for all the hundreds and the thousands that are to come when we invest in the limitless potential of the young men and women seated in the front section of this auditorium,” referring to the cadre of young adults who occupied the first rows of McFarlin.
Gaffigan performed a 50-minute set, which, from the sounds of the raucous laughter, seemed to be well received.
Chairs for the evening were Cathy and Joel Brook, Wendy and Marc Stanley, Bonnie and Jeff Whitman and Lisa and Mark Zale. Campaign chairs are Janet Beck and Cynthia Feldman. Presenting sponsor was BB&T. Bradley Laye is the Federation president and CEO and is joined by the leadership team of Mariam Shpeen Feist, senior vice president and chief development officer; Gary Wolff, chief of staff; and Lisa Shaoul, One Night event manager and Women’s Philanthropy director. Prescott pointed out during his remarks that because of the generosity of the sponsors, especially presenting sponsor BB&T, One Night was possible without using any Campaign resources.
If you didn’t get a chance to attend One Night, you can still make a pledge to the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ 2017 Campaign by visiting www.jewishdallas.org.