(Flickr photo – Andrea – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/)
One evening in 1984, Frances Goldstein paid a visit to her neighbour’s house. There, the young mother of a four-year-old and a two-year-old listened as Julia Koschitzky encouraged the gathered women to get involved in UJA Federation. “I don’t think I even understood what UJA was at the time,” Goldstein admits now. “I just knew I wanted to work with her.” She signed up to volunteer immediately.
Fifteen years later, after stints at Emunah Women of Canada and Israel Bonds, she was hired as a federation professional. She remembers thinking she didn’t have the skills to do the job. “I lacked self-confidence,” she says. “And I was shy.” She was so nervous, in fact, that on her first mission to Israel three months later, she slept with the TV and the lights on every night.
Over the next 20 years, Goldstein served in various positions at UJA, including as director of the women’s campaign. She led missions to Israel (on one occasion, during a Jerusalem snowstorm, they dug a path to the Kotel with spoons), took a group of Canadian women to Havana (along with two duffel bags full of pharmaceuticals, courtesy of Honey and Barry Sherman), and, two years ago, she staffed the adult March of the Living.
Working for a Jewish organization altered her perception of the community. “I had only seen the Jewish community through my insulated lens. My eyes were opened as I came to understand not just the strength of the Jewish community, but also the enormous challenges we face.”
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Last week, when Goldstein retired from UJA, I asked her what advice she would give to people working in the field of Jewish fundraising. “A successful career is based not on fundraising, but mainly on friend-raising,” she replied. “Every time you’re going to meet a new donor, think of it as a first date. If it goes well, you have a second date. After a while, you develop a relationship based on trust and loyalty.”
During her career at UJA, she developed close relationships, both with professional staff and the many women’s philanthropy chairs she was honoured to work with. (She recalls one chair in particular with whom she would converse in Yiddish at meetings so that no one else would understand.) The late Melissa Daiter tried to teach her to hang loose; Sherry Firestone was a living, breathing lesson in integrity. And, of course, Koschitzky, who helped her begin her journey, guided her every step of the way.
Looking back, Goldstein believes that “working in a Jewish organization is a wonderful tool for a cultivating Jewish identity.” As for younger people who might be considering a professional path in the Jewish community, her advice is, “don’t be afraid to suggest changes. Just as an old carpet or paint on the wall gets tired, so too can any organization unless it’s freshened up. Don’t worry about failure. Trying something new is better than never trying it at all.
“Be inspired every day. We are an amazing community that bands together in times of crisis – how much greater could we be if we were united all the time?”
Good job, Mom!