Rosh Hashanah Morning 5775
In 2012 a young engineer named Debbie Sterling was on a quest. She wanted to give young girls a better chance in engineering by providing them with a building toy that would appeal to them. She did this because she found that research showed that although boys and girls have equal aptitude for engineering, in the area of spatial aptitude girls were a little behind, and this could be directly correlated to the toys they played with as children.
To solve this she created a building toy she called “Goldieblox”. She tried and tried to sell it through the toy establishment and again and again was told that building toys for girls didn’t sell. But she wouldn’t be dissuaded and was certain that if she could just make a small manufacturing run she could get people excited and she could sell her product, but the minimum manufacturing quantity of 5,000 units was going to cost her $150,000. With no one to turn to she decided, through the encouragement of her friends, to take her idea to the public and she launched a campaign to fund Goldieblox via a crowd-funding website some of you may have heard of called Kickstarter.
Crowd-funding is a process in which you fund a project by raising small amounts of money from a lot of people. Ms. Sterling set a goal of $150,000 and gave herself 30 days to reach it. It only took five days for her to reach her goal and then almost doubled it in the 30 days. Of the total she raised, the two largest donations were only $5,000, another 9 were $1,000 and of the more than 5,000 other donations none were more than $300. This group of people allowed her to transform her dream into reality by coming together as a group with the faith that others would feel the same way and contribute. As a result of her successful campaign, Debbie was able to build many more that the initial 5,000 sets she set out to build and now you can buy Goldieblox everywhere from Toys’R’Us to Target, in the U.S. and around the world.
But Debbie wasn’t the first Jew to use crowd-funding (yes, she is Jewish!) God and Moses were actually pioneers of the crowd-funding concept, as we see in the parsha Vayakhel. In this parsha Moses has just returned from Mount Sinai with the second set of tablets. He assembles the entire community of Israelites and he tells them that they must build the Mishkan (or Tabernacle) for God to dwell among them. In order to fund this huge project, Moses asked for contributions from every member of the community to build it. The way Moses asks is remarkable. He says “whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it. . .gold, and silver, and copper; blue, purple, and scarlet [wool], and fine linen, and goats' hair; rams' skins dyed red” and the list goes on and on. If you read closely he is asking that each person give from what they have and what is available to them, whether it be gold or goat hair, and to give that gift from the heart. And the amazing thing is that the Israelites answered this call to bring from the heart what they were able. They brought so much that Moses actually had to make a call to stop the inflow of kindness from the eager Israelites.
Here at PTBE we have two crowd-funding projects underway right now. First, our yearly GIVE ONCE fundraiser, and the second is our building campaign, Bonim B’yachad. Each year we ask you to contribute to our GIVE ONCE fundraiser, our yearly campaign to fill the gaps in the operating budget. We make this request only once, during the High Holy Days every year. The reason for the gaps in our budget is because of our belief that as a community we cannot turn away anyone from membership due to financial hardship. We also feel we need to maintain excellent services and programs for our community to thrive. Each year we fill this funding gap through the generosity of our community. We have over 850 member families in our community, of which 400 families participate regularly in our fundraiser. This year our goal is that every family participates. We are asking those of you who may not regularly participate to make a contribution this year at whatever level is comfortable for your budget. But please participate and help us make a difference. Help bring us to 100%. As we see from Goldieblox and the building of the tabernacle, contributions add up whether they be big or small.
This year, unlike other years where we ask you for that once a year contribution to fill the gaps, we also have a once in a generation project, our Bonim B’yachad Campaign to rebuild our facility. Bonim B’yachad literally translates to Builders Together. This important project was initiated more than four years ago because our community has grown beyond the capacity of our facility. We did a membership wide survey and held many parlor meetings, in which you clearly told us what you needed when we updated our facility. Now is the time to make this happen.
This is a once in a generation request. This is a tremendous undertaking that is going to require contributions from everyone. We must build it together.
Of course we understand that each of us is unique, that we are all in different financial situations, and have differing priorities. At this point in your life you may only be coming to synagogue on the High Holy Days or you may attend every week. But this is not a moment in time contribution. This is a contribution for our community today and also a contribution to ensure the vitality of our community in the future.Also, you may choose to give to Bonim B’yachad for different reasons. You may decide to contribute because your child is thriving in religious school, or making life-long friends in the teen program. Or, you may decide to contribute because your aging parent gets a meal or weekly walk with our Caring Committee, or you may contribute because as your child makes their way in the adult world, in whatever city they choose to live in, someone like you has given at some time to create a Jewish community there that they can be a part of. You may contribute because you can imagine that in 50 years someone will be naming their baby or a young couple is being married in a chapel you helped to build as this one was built for you over 60 years ago by a group of families just like ourselves who wanted to build a Jewish community for the future here in San Mateo. Our founders would be very proud that what they built has become a spiritual home to a thriving community of over 850 families, bucking the trends of Jewish communities declining around the world. But we are bursting at the seams and our building is outdated so it is now time for us to pay it forward once again.
Whatever your reason and whatever your means, please answer the call to join our community and contribute what you can from your heart. We need your help: both to sustain us with GIVE ONCE and to build our future with Bonim B’yachad. So when you see your GIVE ONCE envelope sitting in your pile of papers or you get a call from a volunteer on the Bonim B’yachad team, please give from the heart at whatever you can, whether it be gold or linen, because your contribution is needed and valued and will make tremendous difference.