The year 1948 was an important one in the history of the Jewish people: the birth year of the State of Israel.
In Colorado Springs, that same year saw the creation of several organizations with the purpose the raising of funds to benefit Jews in Israel and elsewhere around the world. The Council of Jewish Women, Hadassah, Israel Bonds and United Jewish Appeal (UJA) all began their history of fundraising in Colorado Springs around the same time.
David Supperstein was in high school during this period. He recalls meetings at the Sons of Israel synagogue on South Cascade Avenue. There was good attendance for these gatherings in 1948; he reports a “full house” for every occasion.
Israel was in its infancy and American Jewry, including Colorado Springs Jewry, responded with financial and emotional support.
The board members of the UJA, as it was known at that time, planned events with various themes and programs. Supperstein gave some examples: lectures, dinners, brunches, entertainment, speakers who were serious and those who spoke in a more humorous vein. “Anything that drew a crowd” was attempted.
After the event, the board members would go door to door.
Supperstein recalls that during one conversation, one of the fundraisers discussing the stock market with a donor. The fundraiser said, “you’ve done really well this year. I suggest you give more money to UJA.’”
UJA was not part of another organization, as Young Judaea is part of Hadassah. UJA was independent and competed for the Jewish dollars in Colorado Springs with the Council of Jewish Women, Israel Bond drives, Hadassah and JNF. Many Jews in town supported all of them, but when the idea for UJA was in its infancy, the synagogue in Colorado Springs split.
The Reform faction of Sons of Israel, being firmly anti-Zionist, wanted no part of an organization that supported Israel.
According to Supperstein, this was one of the major factors that resulted in the split of the congregation and the creation of the Reform Beth El. In its requests for fundraising, Israel was not mentioned at Beth El.
Early leaders of UJA in Colorado Springs included Hy Silver, Chester and Miriam Supperstein, Mike Meyers, Walter Saunders, Norton Bain, Frank Aries and Philip and Dorothy Taxman. David Supperstein reports that the Colorado Springs Jewish community gave a proportionately substantial amount each year.
Supperstein remembers a conference he attended with his father in Miami when he was in high school. On the bus en route to the hotel, the attendees, made up of scrap dealers, raised one million dollars, with the final donation of $100,000 contributed by one man who wanted to be able to say that they had raised one million.
At the Miami conference, Supperstein met senators, congressmen, and other government officials. The mayor of Jerusalem was also in attendance.
United Jewish Communities, as the UJA is known today in Colorado Springs, uses the monies collected to aid Jews not only in Israel but around the world. The funds are disseminated through the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Israel to benefit youth and educational programs, absorption centers, and youth-at-risk in Israel.
Around the world, the money is used to provide meals to elderly and shut-in Jews, to rescue Jews in danger, to help Jews with home health care, to fund summer camps for Jewish youth and to rebuild homes after natural disasters.
The committee currently in charge of the UJC campaign in Colorado Springs consists of Don Kraft, chair; Gary Altman, treasurer; Trudy Taxman; Perry Bach; Allan Davidson; Larry Stahler; Phyllis Stahler, and Jill Altman.
Members recall the changes in name the UJA name that threatened to undermine the campaign.
The decision to dispense with “United Jewish Appeal” affected local donors who did not realize that the aim of the susequent “United Jewish Communities” and then “Jewish Federations of North America” was the same: i.e., support for Jews in Israel and around the world.
A federation, by definition, collects monies for use locally as well as for Israel. In Colorado Springs, the money was earmarked for Israel and the Diaspora, excluding local use.
The Colorado Springs committee decided to return to the moniker “United Jewish Communities” in the hope that donors would be more likely to support needy Jews elsewhere who lacked essentials.
The community of Colorado Springs is not new to the idea of giving tzedakah to Jews in need. The people of the small town have contributed for more than 70 years. Since the year 1987, the earliest year recorded by the national organization, Colorado Springs has raised more than $1.25 million dollars for UJC.
For the past 19 years, the UJC campaign in Colorado Springs has consisted of a brunch and speaker on topics of concern to Israel and American Jewry.
This year’s brunch will be Oct. 27, 11:30 a.m., at the Antlers Hotel in downtown Colorado Springs.
The speaker will be Yoram Ettinger, executive director of “Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative.”
Information: Gary Altman, email@example.com.
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