A Voyage of Discovery for the Bergantino Family


The Bergantino family – Sophie (15), Celeste (10), JR and Tamar – moved to Tucson from California 10 years ago for professional opportunities.

“Starting a fund at the Foundation is a good way to discover how to help those in need,” says Tamar Bergantino, who, together with her husband JR, established a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) and a Testamentary Endowment Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation.

“Our DAF allows us to support nonprofits today, but what we think are important ways to give now may be different in 20 years, and may be different from what our girls are interested in as they mature. That’s where the Testamentary Endowment comes in.” By also establishing this endowment fund, the Bergantinos are ensuring that the things their family cares most about will be supported long after their lifetimes.

“The Foundation gives us flexibility to refine our plans to provide donations as the need changes,” says Tamar.

Before her children were born, Tamar worked in financial recruiting for 12 years. She now enjoys being a stay-at-home mom. “We want our girls to have a strong foundation as they grow up, so that they learn about life’s choices and they have the opportunity to make these choices in their lives.”

Tucson’s Jewish community embraced the family.

“Rabbi Billy from Tucson Hebrew Academy has provided love and guidance to our girls and even attended Sophie’s Bat Mitzvah, and Rabbi Louchheim from Congregation Or Chadash helps us with both spiritual and real world guidance.”

The family shares the values of their Congregation’s leadership and membership: community, simplicity, and inclusiveness. “Or Chadash truly has been open and welcoming to us from the get go,” said JR. “When we joined, we had very young children and it set the tone for many years to come. The family services create an environment for Jews and non-Jews alike to come together to learn and embrace Jewish values. It welcomes individuals coming from a variety of different experiences and cultures. We are all there for one reason: to be a Jewish community that is unified.”

The family is now at a stage in their lives that makes it more difficult to participate regularly, but “we know in our hearts that there is always a place for us in the Or Chadash family. That’s why we support the congregation’s programs and future growth. We hope our children, should they remain in Tucson—or return—will experience the same richness that we have experienced and will for many years to come. The support provided to all families has stemmed from compassion and appreciating the differences in others.”

Tamar grew up with Reform Judaism and JR grew up Roman Catholic. When they married and ultimately had children, they wanted their children to have a very strong religious identity and both believed the core values of Judaism would help shape their family.

“I had always had the love and support of Tamar’s family, but Jewish friends and the community embraced us, too. They reinforced our strength during difficult times,” said JR. “Leaving California was a hard decision for us, but we found Tucson’s Jewish community welcoming, kind and inclusive; it felt like the close family we had left behind, only bigger!”

How Do We Make a Difference?

The Bergantinos not only found the support they needed in Tucson, but reached out to the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona to learn more about where they could make a difference in the lives of others, both Jewish and non-Jewish, here at home and throughout the world.

“Prioritizing which organizations need our immediate help is difficult. Philanthropy isn’t always an easy concept to teach to a child. We have tried to impart to our children, in its most compassionate sense, that it can be as simple as one act of kindness and tenderness to someone going through difficult times,” says JR. “Exposing our children to the needs of others can sometimes feel overwhelming daily, as there are almost too many places to donate time and funds. However, it has been rewarding to see our children share in the different experiences.”

The family has not only supported Or Chadash, Tucson Hebrew Academy, and the Federation, their generosity has extended to the United Way, Red Cross, Beads of Courage, Operation Deep Freeze, Tu Nidito and the girls’ Jewish summer camp, Camp Ramah of California, which Tamar calls “their happy place.”

Tamar joined the Federation’s Young Women’s Cabinet early on, where she made many friends whose company she enjoys today. She has traveled to Israel twice with Jewish women from the community, and has co-chaired both Mitzvah Magic and the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Connections Brunch.

JCF’s Director of Legacy Development Brenda Landau has had the opportunity to work with the entire Bergantino family at Congregation Or Chadash, the Federation, and now the Foundation.  “Seeing Tamar in her role as the Connections Co-Chair was the perfect blend of everything they represent.  She was able to help the Federation bring together generations of women to support our Jewish community and philanthropy and to inspire the next generation to make a difference.”

According to JR, the legacy program at the Jewish Community Foundation allows their family to act on one of the core values they share – philanthropy. “We are not always able to give as much as we would like today, but this program allows us to continue giving throughout our lifetime and beyond. Our funds have a chance to grow, thus providing more support to those people and areas of need. We want to be certain that our giving continues and that our children are able to manage and support our hopes and wishes for a better day.”