First person: I’m inspired by what we do

Milwaukee Jewish Federation held its 2018 Annual Campaign Kick-Off Celebration on Thursday, Sept. 14, at The Pfister Hotel Imperial Ballroom, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. Lauri Roth delivered the following remarks.

Hello everyone, good evening and welcome to our 2018 Annual Campaign Kick-Off for OUR Milwaukee Jewish Federation! I am Lauri Roth, Campaign Chair for 2018!

I am excited, energized and moving full speed ahead with the help of our amazing volunteers, and awesome hard working staff. All of you play a most important role in funding the incredible work done through various services, learning opportunities and activities brought to you by or in partnership with the MJF. Jews do amazing things.

For those of you who do not know me, my husband Rob and I have lived in Milwaukee for 29 years. Our two boys are now 35 and 32. Brandon and Eric were raised here and attended Milwaukee Jewish Day School, JCC nursery school and day camp. Both were active in BBYO. We have one grandson, Alex, living in Denver with Brandon and his wife Amanda. Eric resides in Chicago.

In the last three years, I have had the remarkable opportunity to travel with leaders of the Federation, my husband and my two sisters on five different trips outside of the U.S. All of the trips were Jewish missions that exposed me to the vast work Jews do, funding development across the world. I have experienced firsthand the impact our dollars have on people’s lives.

These experiences make me so proud, so thrilled and so inspired by what WE, the Jewish people, do in the world!

For me, much of life is about the experiences and the interactions we have with others in our daily lives. To share these stories, is to tell the narrative of my own life, my own moral conscience and my values, and to understand why I am honored to serve as campaign chair.

I would like to share an experience from my most recent trip in July to Kiev, Ukraine.  About 100 professional and lay leaders of Federations from across the U.S. attended this trip, including our own Caren Goldberg.

In 1989, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, 80 percent of Ukrainian Jews chose to leave because of the precarious economic situation coupled with an uncertain political future and ongoing anti-Semitism. Today approximately 350,000 Jews remain, and since the fall of communism have experienced a renaissance of Jewish life.

On our second day there, we spent time at a summer camp funded by the Jewish Agency for Israel through Federation dollars. These burgeoning programs relate to the rebuilding of their Jewish identity and often are the places where they learn to “live Jewish.”

As we interacted with the campers, ages 11-15 years, I was not only touched but thrilled by the stories they shared with us. I had the privilege to sit next to Anna at an activity creating a picture by putting in items from our surroundings.

We talked about the importance of welcoming people in our home. She seemed quiet and a bit reserved, but we soon began talking and I asked her about her camp experience. As we heard throughout the day, many kids did not even know they were Jewish.

For Anna, her mother told her the night before she was leaving that next day and she would be going on a bus ride four hours long and attending summer camp for Jewish kids.  Anna said, “I did not even know what Jewish really was!” Can you imagine, getting on a bus alone, 11 years old and riding all that long way to the unknown?

This is now Anna‘s third year at Jewish Camp and she said, with a huge smile on her face, “This is the best part of my life!  I am so happy to be Jewish and understand what we do.” Others in the group expressed their love for Jewish values and traditions and how they brought them back home to their families.

For Anna, she shared how great she felt to be part of a big group, the Jewish heritage that makes her feel proud. Her smile could light up the whole camp ground when she looked at me and said, “These weeks are the best weeks of my life. I love the kids and the counselors.”

This is a life enriching experience for this young lady that will be with her forever, and meeting her will stay with me forever! What I experienced on this Jewish mission is the ability to glimpse into a fellow Jew’s life, and to remind myself that Jews do incredible things in the world!

As we moved to another project space, the group was talking about hospitality and welcoming strangers. And as I spoke with various campers, I reflected on my own family, who I know have many Jewish opportunities in their communities through the Jewish Federations in Chicago and Denver.  This brings me such great comfort, and drives my passion to make my long-ago adopted Milwaukee Jewish community great.

The greatest power of the Federation is how we can touch a single person’s life.  WE are all responsible for doing the right thing.  Anna, as all young Jews around the world, is the future of Jewish identity.  Practicing their Judaism is not easy; they have to work hard to be a part of our Jewish community, and this inspires me. Judaism is about service, doing and helping. We have the power to make this possible with the dollars we raise every year!

We are the power of the Jewish collective. Together we can make things happen, enrich lives, help lives and grow our moral and social Jewish conscience. Because of you, right here in Milwaukee we have the infrastructure, the agencies, the education, the means and the leadership to keep our own Jewish community vital.

Through your service and your gift to the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, YOU do amazing things. Your dollars make things happen. This is my final ask…

Every Jew has the opportunity to give. Think about the schools, agencies and organizations here in Milwaukee who have touched your lives, generation after generation.

We here tonight are all blessed, and as Jews, we all do amazing things. THANK YOU for joining me with your support for the campaign. Help fund our present and secure our future and make our 2018 Annual Campaign strong.

And don’t forget – thanks to several generous donors, we are able to match all new gifts and gift increases to the 2018 Annual Campaign, so please make your most generous gift possible, and please make it soon.

Thank you!