Saturday night was a night of incredible highs and incredible lows. But through it all we saw our community at its absolute best. And even for those of you who weren’t there, we have one man to thank: the late Fred Seskin.
Fred, a stalwart of the North Shore community, arrived early at our Chatswood function with his wife Necia as they had decided to come at the last minute and wanted to pay for their ticket. There would be no difficulty finding a table for Fred with people that he knew because Fred had friends at nearly every table in the hall.
The night was wonderful – a joyous culmination of what has been a very well-received and executed campaign. JCA vice-president Michael Graf spoke forcefully about the threat of rising anti-Semitism, the opportunities of engagement and innovation that face our community, and what JCA and its member organisations are doing about these challenges.
We heard inspiring speeches from two young men: our own Ian Reichman, who we watched grow in confidence through our campaign, as he helped out as a volunteer and finally, asked to speak so that he could explain the impact your support of our community and JCA has had on his life. What value can you possibly place on donations that help a young man learn to walk and talk again after collapsing on the soccer field?
Our guest speaker, Gerardo Porteny Backal, inspired us all to make a difference in the world, though he also made us feel a little lazy for not having started five not-for-profit organisations between the ages of 16 and 20, and a breast cancer awareness speed car racing team. It was just a bit humbling to have to wish him a happy 21st birthday, which he celebrated on the plane home from Sydney on Monday.
We were all on such a high, and the JCA team, lead by Terry Katz on Saturday night, had done such a great job. Just as we were contemplating starting a JCA Formula One Racing team, as the last of the guests left the hall, a CSG volunteer came running in to say that someone had collapsed and CPR was being administered. Five doctors from our community (including Terry’s husband, Ian) battled to resuscitate Fred until just before midnight when unfortunately it was clear that nothing more could be done.
Fred Seskin was a family man, devoted to his community and a real icon to many.
In summary, Fred Seskin was 86 years old, a congregant at Kehillat Masada and very involved in the North Shore Jewish community, serving as president of the North Shore Friendship Club up until very recently, and a regular attendee and organiser of events at Kadimah Gardens. He was also a long time donor to JCA and dedicated to all aspects of our community.
After his passing, we were unsure whether or not to process Fred and Necia’s pledge form. But on Monday, several of us from JCA attended his funeral along with hundreds of others. Rabbi Krebs delivered a most powerful and moving eulogy.
Rabbi Krebs noted that he spent his final day immersed in community – both at shul in the morning and at our JCA dinner in the evening. Literally, Fred’s last stroke of the pen had been to sign his JCA pledge form and give tzedakah to our community and those members of it who are less fortunate.
We can all get very carried away with ideas, and strategy, and innovation, and threats, and messaging, and engagement, and brand, and marketing, and social media, and cover charges, and speakers, and catering, and videos, and donor numbers, and demographics, and a hundred other details that need to be thought through in running a large communal philanthropy. But every now and then, something cuts through.
On Saturday night, and then at the funeral on Monday, that thing was the final act of communal generosity of one donor, who reminded us that it is our great responsibility and honour to be the conduit of our community’s huge philanthropic heart.
We wish to thank every single person who has supported JCA’s 2015 campaign to-date. There really is something truly wonderful about every single donor, and every single donation. Something far bigger than all of us. Something immortal.
We wish Fred’s wife Necia, children Hilton, Mark and Sharon, grandchildren and great-grandchild, and all of his other relatives and friends, long and healthy lives biz hundert un tsvantsik.
Daniel Grynberg, CEO