The USS Hornet is a big ship. It had to be to hold the more than 1,000 people attending Making Waves, a titanic community event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay and its Jewish Community Foundation.
Held Jan. 31 on the Hornet — a decommissioned aircraft carrier docked at Alameda Point — Making Waves brought together people from every synagogue, Jewish day school, JCC and Jewish agency on the starboard side of the bay. Though attendees did fill out fundraising pledge cards, the more apparent goal of the event was to celebrate the East Bay Jewish community.
“We wanted to have as many people here as possible to generate enthusiasm,” said Sean Mandell, the federation’s director of planning and strategic initiatives, and one of the staffers who planned the event. “It’s more about community building than fundraising. We want to listen to the community.”
The motto for the evening, and for the federation itself, was “Together, We are Stronger.” While large-scale events occur routinely in the Jewish community, Making Waves demonstrated two big secrets to having a successful event like this: price and location.
The couvert was $36 per person and no minimum gift was required. Moreover, the admission cost included an open bar and appetizers.
But location was also a big factor. The USS Hornet, built in 1943, saw action in World War II and Vietnam, and even pulled a few bobbing Apollo space capsules out of the water in its time. Weighing in at 43,000 tons and towering 190 feet above the waterline, the vessel now serves as a floating military museum, with vintage Navy helicopters and a Gemini space capsule on display.
Making Waves was held in a hangar bay big enough to hold a squadron of F-14 Tomcats. Or a thousand shmoozing Jews.
“I’ve never seen so many people at one event,” said Joanne Backman, president of Berkeley’s Congregation Beth El. “It’s a fabulous idea to combine all the interests of all the organizations.”
The evening began with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction (items up for bid included a Hermes scarf and six-month supply of gourmet pretzels). Attendees mingled among the museum exhibits, noshing on quiche and grilled salmon, while video projections reminded all about the good works of the federation.
Day Schildkret, executive director of the Tri-Valley/Tri-Cities Midrasha, brought along teens from his program, each sporting a glowing, handmade lei.
“It’s epic,” Schildkret said of the event. “I’m bringing our midrasha to educate them on how to be part of a Jewish community. Coming together as a community allows us to become sustainable.”
One of Schildkret’s students, Spencer Blum of Hayward, said, “I came because I knew it would be fun. I wanted to support my midrsaha.”
Once the formal part of the evening began, organizers honored six innovative programs that originated in the East Bay Jewish community: Moishe House, now an international chain of centers for post-college young adult Jews; the PJ Library, which provides free children’s books to young Jewish parents; Shabbat Shalem, a program of Berkeley’s Congregation Beth Israel that expands outreach for Shabbat celebration; the Jewish Community Teen Foundation, which fosters philanthropy in teens; Shalom Bayit, which combats domestic violence in Jewish homes; and Wilderness Torah, which celebrates Jewish holidays and Shabbat in outdoor settings.
Federation president Terry Friedkin introduced representatives from each organization, who then gave brief remarks describing the work of their institutions. After the formal part of the event ended, attendees continued to mix and mingle to the upbeat music from the band, Klezmania.
“I didn’t know the East Bay federation had a presence,” said Andrea Lackner of Danville. “I am learning while I’m here.”
“It’s so important that the east and west sides of the [Caldecott] Tunnel, came together for this,” added Judith Markowitz, director of development and special programming at the Contra Costa JCC. “[Making Waves] was accessible to everyone and sent a very good message from the federation.”