President’s Message from Jenny David

For the past six years I have been a member of the Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet, which is made up of approximately 250 young Jewish leaders ages 30-45 from all over the United States and Canada, and during my tenure on Cabinet, I have learned a lot about our community and other Jewish communities around the world.

Recently, when I was telling someone on Cabinet about our community, she said, “You are small but mighty.” I like to think that we are small AND mighty. In talking with other members of Cabinet about their communities, I realized that we provide the same breadth of services and programs here as larger federations. Your support of our Annual Campaign makes it possible for us to provide early childhood education to over 90 children, summer camp, youth programs, including our JCCY youth group and our reinvigorated BBYO group, community Hebrew school for our pre-b’nai mitzvah children, adult education programs like our Lunch and Learn series, lunch and social interaction each week for our older community members through our Grand Club, Jewish Family Services, including our community food closet, and support for other local Jewish organizations, such as Beth Sholom Home and the Hillels at CNU and William & Mary.

But, through Cabinet, I realized that we do something that larger federations find difficult. We DO community. Imagine how difficult it is in New York, for example, where there are literally millions of Jews, to have the kind of close-knit community that we enjoy here. We go to a Jewish event, and we know each other’s names. We know when a new baby is born. We know when someone gets married. We know when someone new moves to town. We know when someone is ill or needs help. We take care of each other.
And, we don’t just take care of each other, we take care of Jews all over the world. Your annual campaign gift makes it possible for our community to support the work of our international partner agencies, the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). Each year, Cabinet travels to Jewish communities abroad on a study mission so we can see firsthand the work that our federation dollars do all over the world. In April, I had the opportunity to go on this year’s study mission to Morocco and Spain.

The Moroccan Jewish community is a lot like our community. With approximately 2,500-3,000 Jews living in Morocco, they are similar in size to us, and they are also close knit. They have synagogues, a Jewish high school, a Jewish preschool and elementary school, a Jewish old age home, and a recently opened JCC, and their community boasts the only Jewish museum in the Arab world. On the last day that we were in Casablanca, we visited the Jewish preschool and elementary school. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the children were on the playground, laughing and singing in Hebrew, and we played a game about the Jewish holidays. The principal of the school is devoted to her work, taking the time to give a kiss and hug to a little boy who recently lost his mother, and the children clearly adore her. She reminded me so much of our Director of Education, Carmela Malkin-Kuhn. I really felt like I had been transported home.

But, despite the similarities between our communities, Jewish life in Morocco is tenuous. At one time there were approximately 300,000 Jews living in Morocco. But the Jewish population has dwindled as Jews have left Morocco to escape persecution, to pursue better economic opportunities, or to make aliyah to Israel. While the current king of Morocco has protected the Jewish community and supported the restoration of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, I heard more than one member of the Moroccan Jewish community say that they know that their safety and livelihood could change at any time if the current king changes his views or if there is a change in leadership. There is definitely a sense of insecurity in their community. Also unlike our community, they are not able to provide the financial resources alone to support the needs of their community, and that’s where we come in.

Without the support of our community and other Jewish communities in North America, the school that I visited in Casablanca would not exist, and Jewish life in Morocco would be very different.

Morocco is not the only place where our support makes a difference. Our community helps to build and sustain programs in more than 70 countries, ensuring that Jewish communities EVERYWHERE are vibrant and resilient.

It is not a coincidence that our name is the UNITED Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula. We are united with each other, and we are united with Jews all over the world.
I am very honored to serve as the President of the UJCVP, and I look forward to working with all of you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at with your comments, questions, or concerns (757-595-4500).