BARRINGTON – As we begin our Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island Annual Campaign this fall, I have been reflecting on my many years of experience with the Women’s Division/Women’s Alliance (WA) of the Alliance. Now chairing the Community Division of the WA campaign, I have been involved with the organization since the 1990s.
I recently asked my close friends and fellow lay leaders for some of their remembrances from the time they began volunteering in 1980.
Mindy Wachtenheim has embraced the concept of volunteering with the Alliance with the grace that could only come from truly believing in its mission. An integral part of community building for more than 30 years, she cautions our young people to put more emphasis on working for our Jewish community rather than asking what the community can do for us.
She remembers that the late Robert Riesman, a former Jewish Federation of Rhode Island (now the Alliance) president, often used the expression, “Après moi le déluge,” which means, “After me, the floods (will begin).” Her two other favorite fundraising quotes are these: “Raising money isn’t glamorous, but it can be fun,” and “Don’t give until it hurts, give until it feels good.”
Cheryl Greenfeld Teverow reflected on the close friendships that span the generations from her involvement with the Jewish Federation and now the Alliance. She was nostalgic as she looked through her meticulous array of newspaper clippings – some pictured herein – from many years of events held by the Jewish Federation and the Alliance; many of the women featured in those stories consistently volunteered through the years.
“I think we understand the big picture of keeping our Jewish community vibrant,” said Greenfeld Teverow. “Many of us also serve on organizations outside the Jewish community, but I doubt for the [same] length of time … many of us worked outside the home, but also found the time to devote [to] helping our Jewish community, both in Rhode Island and abroad, getting the finances to sustain the many wonderful things we do. I’d love to see many other young women’s pictures from now through 30 more years. It really is remarkable, but also scary, to see how many years have gone by.”
Mitzi Berkelhammer joyfully told me of being a young woman in 1980 and being invited to an extremely moving talk by Gerda Weissmann Klein, who came to speak to the Women’s Division. At that time, each woman contributed $100 to the Women’s Division to hear Klein, who authored “All But My Life,” in 1957, which was later adapted for the 1995 short film, “One Survivor Remembers.” Coincidentally, Mindy Wachtenheim chaired this event. This film received both an Academy Award and an Emmy.
Mitzi remarked that she now realizes how much $100 was in 1980, yet all the women gladly gave their donations to be part of this prolific Holocaust survivor’s remembrances and wisdom about our Jewish community.
“ I have been involved in many organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, but I always come back to the Alliance,” she said. “The Alliance is the key to the Jewish community. We are community builders when we make our gift. We are not giving to the Alliance, but through the Alliance.”
Certainly fundraising is an integral part of what the Alliance does; however those of us who have done this for years all agree that we have gained so much. The friendships we have built by showing up for meetings, participating in the many wonderful programs the Alliance has to offer and the pride in knowing that everything we do is important – these are some of the things I cherish from all these years.
As the Alliance’s Annual Campaign begins, the WA welcomes new individuals who will someday share in the same wonderful memories that we, experienced lay leaders, hold dear.
We can’t let the future of our Jewish community be in anyone else’s hands but our own.
For more information about the Women’s Alliance (WA), contact Trine Lustig or Hillary Schulman at 421-4111.
For more information about the Alliance Annual Campaign, contact Eddie Bruckner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 421-4111.
Maybeth Lichaa (Rivka1000@hotmail.com) is chair of the Community Division of the Women’s Alliance.
Editor’s Note: These images are PDFs of photos that appeared in earlier issues of the Jewish Federation’s newspaper, the Vederation Voice, that Cheryl Greenfeld Teverow had collected throughout the years.