Chabad Marks Johnson Family's Decade of Excellence with Fundraiser

Chabad Marks Johnson Family's Decade of Excellence with Fundraiser

By Jordana Hoffman

For the past 10 years the Rabbi Zev and Ariela Johnson have taken care of students with savory Shabbat dinners, cutting edge social events, trips to Israel and much more.

Thanks to student leadership at JTRIBE, JGRADS, Chabad Executive Board, Sinai Scholars interns and alumni boards, they have achieved more success than anyone could have predicted.

In their time at Chabad at UT, the Johnsons have held fundraisers, but never anything as huge as the fundraiser they held at the beginning of December in partnership with Charidy. The fundraising organization gave the Johnsons and Jewish Longhorn community 24 hours to raise $200,000. It was an impressive goal, but there was a catch – unless they reached their goal in the allotted time, Chabad would get nothing.

Fortunately, Rabbi Zev partnered with friends of Chabad to match all donations and quadruple them, so every dollar donated became four for Chabad.

The clock began and the pressure was on, but community members rallied, providing whatever support they could, through donations, making phone calls or just spreading the word on social media.

Hannah Lerner, a senior at University of Texas at Austin, was one of those volunteers.

“If you know me, you know that I love Chabad at UT. The past 3.5 years at UT have been a crazy adventure of ups and downs for me, but Chabad has been here for me through it all. I go to Chabad every Friday and Saturday for Shabbat dinner and Lunch. Zev Johnson, Ariela Johnson and their kids make me feel at home every time I walk through the doors,” Lerner said.

Due to Lerner and others who supported the event, Chabad at UT reached 75 percent of their goal in nine hours, just after midnight. Twelve hours after the start time, they reached their goal and entered a bonus round.

In the end, Chabad at UT, with the help of teams from AEPi, ZBT, SAMMY, AEPhi, JTribe and JGrads competing to raise the most money, raised $221,567.

The goal for each team was to reach $10,000. These teams took the challenge and made it their goal to exceed expectations and show their commitment to Chabad on campus. AEPHi, SAMMY and ZBT went above and beyond any expectations for the day, with ZBT raising almost twice the goal and SAMMY raising $23,640.

The women of AEPhi led the competition, raising more than three times the original fundraising goal with $35,044. Their prize was matzah ball soup and challah for all of the team’s members, as well as the honor of lighting the first night’s candle on Chabad at UT’s hanukkiah at Littlefield Fountain. Jenna Scherz, AEPhi president, lit the candle, taking a moment to give thanks and appreciate the strong bond between AEPhi, Chabad and the Johnson family.

The success of the Charidy campaign would not have been possible without the thoughtful 14 people who pledged to match and multiply by four every dollar donated, including The Gremont Family Foundation; the Stein family; Howard and Wendy Berk; Jeff and Val Newberg; Jack, Linda and Daniel Nourafshan; Simon and Brenda Behar; Phil and Adam Loewy; the Michael Glazer Family fund; the Varda and Jess Fields Foundation; Mark and Shiva Mosch; the Weichselbaum family; Michelle and Chris Sims; the Fiske family; and those who pledged anonymously.

Those interested in supporting Chabad are encouraged to provide contributions throughout the year through Chabad Shares, which allows for monthly donations that help Jewish students of all denominations to learn, thrive and connect with one another.

Donations make events like candle lightings on campus possible, and Chabad Shares members receive updates on what is happening at Chabad. This is a chance to become an active part of this community while helping to ensure its future. ■

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