I have been informed that there was a non-presentation on Operation Exodus at the General Assembly in New Orleans that eventually was delivered by Joel Tauber. Joel became the UJA National Chair in the middle of the Exodus Campaign, and spoke before a few hundred people who lingered on at the Opening Plenary after a 50 minute delay occasioned by the Vice-President's belated arrival. Quite a tribute.
It didn't surprise me to learn that Joel (not UJA, not the Federations) raised what he called "over a billion dollars" (it was actually an equally incredible $960 million). Of course, those of us who were there remember that it was Marvin Lender who led this effort -- kick-started the fund-raising with what became known as the $58 million Breakfast of Champions, initiated a series of Missions which all of us remember for their and his inspiration and with Max Fisher, z'l, the Bronfmans, Les Wexner, the Crown Family and other mega-donors, created the momentum that carried all of us forward. Marvin inspired every one with his self-effacing leadership and his 24/7 dedication to the cause.
I was honored when Joel, having succeeded Marvin as National Campaign Chair in the midst of the Exodus, asked me to Chair what became known as Exodus II, the closing two years of the Exodus Campaign. It was Joel's business acumen that was the catalyst for hiring Ron Friedman away from American Express as the Marketing Director for the Special Campaign and the lay and professional team worked with me to turn that great Campaign on its head, converting it from a major gifts imperative into the federation-driven effort for the final three years.
It was a joy-filled time culminating in a Mission to Uzbekistan and Israel that I led with Richie Pearlstone, who was on the cusp of his service as UJA National Chair, and Carole Solomon, who would succeed me as National Chair, at my side, accompanied by an incredible group of lay and professional leaders -- Shoshana Cardin and Rani Garfinkel, Marty Stein, z'l, Lois Zoller Mills, Dede Feinberg, Steve Rakitt, Julie and Henry Koschitzky, Alan Shulman, Rabbi Irwin Kula, Brian Lurie, Nechemia Dagan and Gerry Nagel, z'l, and so many other spectacular federation leaders -- culminating in a freedom flight with 400 new olim from Tashkent to Jerusalem. No one who traveled with us will ever forget that trip that embodied so much of the Exodus and our philanthropy. Joel wasn't with us.
At the end of the Exodus Campaign, I had the chance to thank Joel Tauber for his leadership and for giving me the opportunity to be part of the historic philanthropic chapter that we -- all 1,250,000 donors to Operation Exodus, the leadership of United Jewish Appeal, the Council of Jewish Federations, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the JDC, and the National Conference for Soviet Jewry --wrote together. But thee chapters weren't written by any one of us -- they were written by the Prisoners of Zion, the Refuseniks, the 400,000 Soviet Jews who applied for visa to Israel in the late 80's and early 90's, the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, the Union Of council and the National Conference for Soviet Jewry, the UJA and CJF, JAFI and, most critically, the Government of Israel. Joel was no doubt taking credit on behalf of all of them and all of us. Of course.
I have questioned whether JFNA could mount such an effort today; heck, they couldn't even put together an appropriate event to honor that history.