Friday, June 17, 2022

Not a Zero Sum Game

“Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.” These words are attributed to George Bernard Shaw. Still, as I reflect on a significant milestone our community achieved this week with the Kollel record-breaking fundraiser, I cannot help but feel immense pride and gratitude. About six years ago, I initiated a serious conversation with the community members about bringing a Kollel to Jacksonville. There was understandably a healthy skepticism among many individuals. The two main concerns communicated to me were, is it really necessary to have a Kollel in Jacksonville? There was also a concern if our community could financially support a new institution considering the scarce financial resources available. Would this not jeopardize the economic future of our local shul and school? I articulated the mission of the Kollel from the outset would be twofold. First, it would be to establish a Makom Torah in our town. Any established city needs to have a buzzing beehive of a Beit Midrash. This platform is fueled by the Kollel Rabbis and scholars who study in the Beit Midrash during the day and night but is open to anyone in the community to drop in with or without a study partner and sink their teeth into the sweet study of Torah. The second element of the Kollel is for it to be a vehicle of outreach to the Greater Jewish Jacksonville Community through the medium of Torah Education. The amazing and professional Kollel staff have achieved this through offering Shabbat Experiences, Women’s Programming, CLE Classes, and much more. Unlike a shul or school with membership or tuition as revenue to depend on, the Kollel exclusively relies on the generosity of donors to sustain its operations. The Jacksonville Kollel has been extremely fortunate to have a dedicated group of partners who have stepped up to support it financially and morally. While the Kollel is grateful to have some out-of-town support, most of the funding comes from local sources. In 2021, the Kollel conducted its first-ever matching fundraiser campaign and raised $72,000. This year, they raised the bar, exceeded the goal of $100,000, and brought in over $108,000 in just over 36 hours. Perhaps even more remarkable is that 362 donors participated in the campaign over 36 hours! The success of this campaign bodes well not only for the Kollel but also for Etz Chaim Synagogue, Torah Academy, and the rest of the Jewish Community. It is a mistake to think of community building as a zero-sum game. A more apt description regarding community building we need to continue to internalize is -- The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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