We help people support the causes and organizations they care about, remember those they love, and give back in the ways that matter most to them. Donors can give through the Foundation in so many creative ways.
Jane Ash & Karen Katz: Remembering Bryna, Honoring Goodness
Bryna Zehngut’s friends wanted to honor and remember her, and they wanted to do it forever.
So the advisory council of the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy, in partnership with Bryna’s closest friends, created the Bryna Zehngut Mitzvot Award after she passed away from ovarian cancer in 2005 at the age of 51.
“Bryna was too special to not be remembered for her loving, giving and positive attitude,” said Jane Ash, who together with Karen Katz, established an endowed fund at the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) to fund the Award. Jane is a JCF board member and Chair of the Foundation’s Legacy Development Committee.
Hundreds of people made donations in memory of Bryna and the Fund now generates a $613 stipend each year that accompanies the Award. The amount relates to the Jewish tradition of 613 mitzvot (good deeds) mentioned in the Torah. Award recipients may use the stipend for a Jewish educational or leadership experience or donate it to a Jewish cause.
The 11th annual Award was presented to high school senior Zoe Holtzman last month at the Federation’s Connections brunch. Zoe was chosen from a pool of outstanding Jewish girls who were nominated because of their leadership and commitment to the local Jewish community.
“These are the same attributes that our friend Bryna had,” says Jane. “She was so inspiring and had such grace about her illness, accepting what she was faced with. I remember her saying ‘I don’t want to spend my time crying. I want to use it to do something good.’ She just didn’t waste time on things that were not productive.”
Karen recalls that Bryna handed out flowers she received to others hospitalized at the same time she was because she wanted everyone to feel loved. According to her friends, kindness was in her DNA.
“Bryna was always so grateful and didn’t have a negative word to say about anyone. She saw the good in everyone,” says Karen. “Her love, ability to meet challenges head on, and giving back to her community are what we look for in our Award candidates.”
Bryna’s many accomplishments included serving as President of the University of Arizona student body, educating youth through her personal connections with Holocaust survivors, chairing the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy, serving on the Foundation board, and working with Tucson Hebrew Academy and the America Israel Friendship League.
When she was diagnosed with cancer, Bryna created the CHAI Circle, a group for Jewish women who have or had cancer and believe it is important for women to have each other for support, encouragement, understanding and even humor. Today, CHAI Circle is a program of Jewish Family & Children’s Services with the goal of empowering women to be active and informed survivors.
Fred Fruchthendler: Family Footprints Connect Yesterday with Tomorrow
A warm smile crosses Fred Fruchthendler’s face whenever he talks about the Jewish community in Tucson. He is as involved in community service today as his parents Jacob and Jean were decades ago. They met at the Young People’s Hebrew Association in the 1940s and were instrumental in the formation of organizations that continue to serve Jewish people and the wider community today.
“The evolution of cultural diversity and sensitivity in Tucson is due in part to the evolution and growth of our Jewish community, which always has been widely engaged,” said Fred. “The strength of our Jewish organizations here in Tucson is that we serve everyone.”
“The warmth and unity of our Jewish community also is evident to Jewish people new to Tucson. We are described as very welcoming and I think that’s because everyone is from somewhere else and worked hard to create what we have.”
Fred met his best friend and long-time life partner Lee Hunt, in kindergarten at the Tucson Jewish Community Center (now called The J) when it was located at Tucson and Broadway boulevards. Jewish Family & Children’s Services and the precursor to the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona had offices there too.
“Jean Weiner was our teacher and she also was a counselor at JFCS,” said Fred. “Mildred Feurstein was The J’s secretary, front desk support for JFCS, and she cooked lunch for the kindergarten students.” He also has fond memories of Shabbat services at Congregation Anshei Israel. He sat with his father and a lot of “great old guys 15 to 20 years older than my dad who built the Jewish community, including Murph Handmaker, Joe Fishman, Bill Gordon, and Dave Kramer.”
Lee is a retired high school teacher from the Tucson Unified School District. Their family includes adult sons Alejandro and Gabriel from Lee’s first marriage, and two grandchildren Boe and Hux. “They are my heart,” says Fred.“I love that there are hundreds of people in town I’ve known for decades, and I am proud of what my parents and Lee and I have contributed to make our community a better place,” said Fred. “The richness of one’s life is what you do for others. Without that, you end up with very little. And I am happy that when I’m gone and someone else picks up the mantle, my footprints will still be there. For all those reasons, I smile.”
Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. Fred’s father was part of the visionary group that saw a need to fund the future and created the Foundation. His parents created an endowment fund that continues to support their favorite organizations today.
Fred has established a testamentary endowment fund, with gifts to the Foundation of two whole life insurance policies that will populate the fund. He makes an annual tax deductible gift to fund the policy premiums. Additionally, a significant part of his estate will go to the endowment fund to benefit the organizations he supports today, forever.
“The power of the Endowment Book of Life and the Foundation is that donors can ensure that their priorities continue in perpetuity,” said Fred, who began working at his father’s insurance agency in 1973 and purchased the business in 1980.
More Community Service. While an undergraduate at the University of California San Diego, Fred designed his own degree in the sociology of institutions and organizations and he minored in urban design. Both have served him well in his work on behalf of the community.
He currently serves as Chair of the Board of Directors at Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona, a 76-year-old agency that now provides counseling and community services for all. He served on the Carondelet Foundation Board of Directors for 10 years, two of those as board chair. The 4th Ave Merchants Association also benefitted from Fred’s volunteer involvement in a group that helped transform a blighted area that people avoided to the thriving shopping and dining district it is today.
He was a vice president at The J in 1975, received the Jewish Young Man of the Year Award in 1976, was a B’nai Brith Aleph Zadik Aleph fraternity advisor for 10 years, served in an advisory role for Handmaker and Congregation Anshei Israel, and was on the board at Hillel in the mid 1980s where he helped install a lawn and sprinklers. “We were a very hands-on board back then!
Written by Deborah Daun
Moses & Joyce Akpan: Remembering Andikan, Inspiring Others
Moses Akpan thought long and hard about how to teach a five-year-old with sickle cell disease (SCD) about the diagnosis, the medications, and the kind of attitude that can help manage pain. Since his son played soccer, Moses opted for a sports analogy.
“Do you know how you whack the ball when you play soccer? Well, every time you take the medicine you need, you are whacking the disease,” Moses told Andikan, which means “victor” in the Ibibio language of Southern Nigeria. Andikan (Andi for short) responded with a smile and over time, he began to feel confident about handling a disease that had been genetically handed down to him.
“I will always remember that joyous smile,” said Moses, who wished that his love for his son could take away or at least soothe the pain. Instead, he had to help Andi build courage, hope and strength. “He never felt sorry for himself, nor did he desire attention. He learned to manage his mind, his body and the frustration caused by the pain. He wasn’t treated differently from other kids and he naturally assumed a leadership role in the family.”
SCD is an inherited blood disorder that causes abnormal, crescent shaped red blood cells. When these misshapen cells block small blood vessels, less blood reaches that part of the body and causes tissue damage. There is currently no cure for SCD, which primarily affects people of African heritage.
Moses and his wife Joyce believe that life is a precious gift from the Creator and that the birth of a baby is a special gift of life. The celebration of the arrival of their four children has lasted a lifetime: daughter Ediyie, Andikan and his twin brother Imoette, and their youngest son Ekanem-Essang.
As Andi got older, he began to read about SCD, and as a University of Arizona (UA) biochemistry major, he researched the disease and wanted to find a cure. According to his dad, he was passionate about doing medical research, possessed a calm strength and acted on the courage of his convictions. He accomplished more in his 21 years than many do in a lifetime.
It was heartbreaking for so many when Andi died in 2011 from sickle cell complications. Moses and Joyce befriended their son’s faculty advisors Marc Tischler, Ph.D. and Liwen Lai, Ph.D., and together with Andi’s hematologist John Hutter, Jr., M.D.; pediatrician Mary Cochran, M.D.; and his minister Nathan Randolph, DSL and Nathan’s wife Sarah Randolph, PharmD, they started an endowment fund at JCF in 2013 called the Andikan Sickle Cell Victory Foundation.
They also helped add a clinicopathological conference/seminar about sickle cell disease to the curriculum for second year students at the UA College of Medicine. A similar program is part of the curriculum for UA College of Nursing master’s degree students in Tucson and Phoenix. To date more than 600 students have been trained since 2012.
Just last year, another of Andi’s dreams was realized. With help from Banner Medical and the Candlelighters, a new SCD Support group was established and 41 families participated. Plans are underway for ongoing meetings and the group would like to become a statewide resource and the “face” of SCD in Arizona. They also have involved the Arizona Department of Health because of the need for an easy-to-access roadmap for managing care after people with the disease reach 18 years of age.
This is when tragedy strikes, according to Moses. Care is well managed for youth, but after the age of 18, young people need regular check-ups and ongoing guidance about managing the disease.
Earnings from the fund at JCF will support educational efforts, the goals of which will include creating awareness and promoting bone marrow and blood donations from Africans and African-Americans, educating healthcare providers, and erasing the stigma of this genetic disease that some still believe is contagious.“We created the Fund to promote Andi’s lifelong aspirations and to make positive difference in our society,” said Moses. “JCF is well respected and to be part of the JCF family of funds is a river of life for so many.”
Moses and Joyce were born in Nigeria and moved to the United States at an early age. After Moses earned a college degree in engineering, they lived in Georgia, Texas and now Tucson since 1999. He retired after more than two decades with Raytheon Missile Systems. Joyce continues to work as a radiology technician with Tucson Orthopedic Institute.
They are active in local churches and Moses has extensive involvement in mission trips to Mexico and Nigeria. His personal experiences, commitment, gratitude and interest led to the establishment of African Family Resource International (AFRI) in Southern Nigeria, resulting in a medical clinic, school for disadvantaged or rural children, and water and micro credit in the area.
Written by Deborah Daun
Myles Beck & Iris Posin: Friendship & Community
Talk to Myles and Iris for a while and you quickly realize the premium they place on friendship and community. These are common threads that run through their lives, especially during their many years in Tucson.
“I’ve always participated in organizations, even as a kid,” says Myles, who has been in the insurance business for nearly 44 years. He first became acquainted with Tucson’s Jewish community through Margie Fenton, who mentored him and in 1974 sent him to a Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona Young Leadership meeting at Barry Friedman’s home where, among others, he met Carol and Dan Karsch.
This was the beginning of his long-term community involvement with various groups and together with longtime friends. Carol later chaired the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), which Margie staffed, and Myles became the chair of its Domestic Concerns Committee. In the JCRC, Myles befriended Bruce and Donna Beyer. Eventually, Carol became the CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation and both Bruce and Myles have served on the Foundation board and its various committees for years.
“Even today,” Myles says with a laugh, “Bruce and I must be on at least six different boards and committees together throughout the community. And Barry Friedman is still active through his great work at the Jewish History Museum.”
“I like to think of myself as a community person, not just focused strictly on one organization.” So, when a longtime friend he originally met at a Passover Seder while they both were on active duty in the Army came to him and asked if he would serve on the Handmaker board, he agreed. Fourteen years later, after having been the board chair in 2010-2012, he is still there.
Myles and Iris met at the Jewish Community Center at a singles event sponsored by the Foundation. The Foundation is obviously special to them! They have been together for 21 years and have three sons and four grandchildren. They have a testamentary endowment fund at the Foundation. He notes that a good way for a younger person to be able to start a fund at the Foundation is through a a term life policy, with the Foundation named as owner and beneficiary. The inexpensive premiums are the young person’s donation. Later in life, the donor can choose to do something more permanent.
Iris and her business partner Karen Vinikoor, met in New Jersey when their then young sons were in Little League. For the past 15 years they have run Thrift Drugs, offering significant savings to consumers by obtaining prescription medications from out-of-the-country providers.
One of the things Iris truly enjoys is volunteering in the Mitzvah Magic program – a partnership between the Federation and the Federation funded Jewish Emergency Financial Assistance Program at Jewish Family & Children’s Services (JFCS). For six years, Iris has co-captained a team of volunteers that buy supplies and gifts for a family in need at various times of the year such as the beginning of school, the High Holidays, and Passover. The team doesn’t know the name of the family they serve, but JFCS provides them with a detailed list of what the family needs. The team members remain the same through the years, meeting a few times each year to discuss their family of the year and deciding who will shop for what. Again, friendship and community.
Robert & Dorice Beren
Robert Beren, M.D., and his wife Dorice continue their involvement with the Moe and Frances Beren Family Fund that his parents established to send children to Jewish summer camps to develop leadership skills and a strong Jewish identity.
In 2015, 14 campers from 10 families received camp scholarships from this special fund through the Coalition for Jewish Education at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.
One recent camper wrote: “Dear Camp Scholarship Committee Members: Thank you very much for the scholarship opportunity that allowed me to go to camp this summer. I am very grateful for the opportunity to attend Camp Stein. Camp is an incredible place where you can be free to be you and people will accept you for who you are. From the amazing activities to the incredible people, camp is one of the best places in the world. All my experiences, the outdoor Shabbats, the evening programs, unit bonding, and inside jokes with my cabin mates make this summer at Camp Stein the best summer yet! I appreciate the amazing opportunity to be at my second home and make lifelong memories and friends. I can’t wait to go back next summer!”
According to Dr. Beren, his father Moe believed in wise giving and that you should know to whom you are giving and how they will use it so that one’s hard earned dollars do not go to waste. Read more about the Beren family.
In Honor of Leon and Pauline Blitzer
Like many of their generation, Leon and Pauline Blitzer initially came to Tucson for health reasons. Over time, they found a home in the physical warmth of the Tucson sun as well as the personal warmth of the University of Arizona and the Tucson Jewish Community. After both Blitzers passed away in 2004, the family decided to honor and remember their dedication to science and the Jewish community in tangible ways.
First, in recognition of Dr. Blitzer’s commitment to both high standards of teaching and research, the family set up the Professor Leon and Pauline Blitzer Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Physics and Related Sciences at the University of Arizona. Faculty members who are eligible for the award, first and foremost, must be excellent teachers as well as researchers in one of four UA departments: Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, Astronomy, and Planetary Sciences.
March 2016 marked the 11th annual award presentation, which comes with a stipend and the opportunity for the awardee to give a public talk about their field of expertise. The awardee is chosen by a committee of senior faculty representing each department, with the Blitzers’ two children–Charles and Miriam (Mimi)–serving as ex-officio members. JCF played a key role in helping the family set up a philanthropic fund to finance the annual award and continues to manage the funds.
In addition to this, the Blitzer family also underwrote the creation of a three-panel history wall just inside the front entrance of Tucson’s Congregation Anshei Israel. The project was dedicated in 2012. In pictures and text, the installation depicts the early history of Jews in Southern Arizona, and more specifically, the history of the synagogue and its members.
Not only do these memorials honor Leon and Pauline, they recognize others too. The family knows their parents and grandparents would have appreciated this.
Click here to make a tax deductible contribution to this fund, or mail a check to the address below with the name of the fund in the memo line.
Professor Blitzer began his nearly 70 years association with the UA Physics Department as an undergraduate, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in 1938 and 1940 respectively. He was awarded his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1943 and returned to the UA three years later as an assistant professor of physics. He received one of the first research grants in department history and in 1949, at the age of 33, became the youngest full professor on campus. He was well-known at the UA for the quality of his teaching, and had a notable career as a researcher in space sciences and celestial mechanics.
Pauline was a UA student in the late 1930s and received a Bachelor’s degree in education in 1940, teaching elementary school until she began to raise her family full time in the early 1950s. She was well-known by students and faculty as the archetypical “Jewish mother” hostess of the Blitzer home. A “people” person, she was active in charities and civic activities for over 50 years, as an advocate and fundraiser for Hadassah, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, and civil rights organizations.
Leon and Pauline Blitzer were part of “the founding generation” of Jews who help build a more formal infrastructure for the Tucson Jewish community – and Tucson as a whole — beginning in the late 1940s. Charles and Mimi have warm memories of their Tucson childhoods and continuing bonds of friendship from that era.
“It’s great to be back and connect with old friends from elementary and high school, and with friends who were the children of my parents’ friends,” says Charles, who, together with his wife Marsha, a former international lawyer and teacher, recently moved back to Tucson after a more than 50-year hiatus. He is an economist with a doctorate from Stanford who has worked for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and now runs an international finance consulting business. Charles and Marsha’s son Eric is a UA senior in computer science and their son Mark is a UA graduate who works as a securities trader in New York where he lives with his wife Tory.
Mimi is Professor and Head of the Division of Human Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. She also is the CEO of the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics. She got her Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh and continues to teach and mentor medical and graduate students. She and her husband David Mallott, a psychiatrist and Associate Dean for Medical Education at University of Maryland, also have two sons, Ken, who is a Chinese-English translator, and Jacob, who after graduating from Oberlin College worked as a research assistant at UCSF.
Mimi and Charles send a postcard announcement every year inviting people to the public lecture and soliciting donations for the Teaching Award endowment fund at the JCF. Click here to be added to mailing list. Please write “Add me to Blitzer Fund mailing list” in the subject line.
“Attending the lecture at the UA is something I look forward to each year – having a chance to visit with my folk’s personal friends and seeing Dad’s colleagues and former students. It reminds us that Dad was an amazing mentor and teacher himself and that is passed on through his students, all the while building a life in Tucson with Mom,” says Mimi.
Barry & Madeline Friedman: Giving Back for the Future
Volunteers. Donors. Leaders. Barry and Madeline Friedman are all of these and more. Their decades of service have made our Jewish and wider communities better and stronger.
They signed the Endowment Book of Life at the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona in the late 1990s and established the Barry and Madeline Friedman Family Endowment Fund at the Foundation in 2014 to ensure that their legacy of giving back continues long into the future.
The couple met in Tucson in the 1970s. She’s from New York, he’s from Ohio, and they love the Southwest. Barry, an infectious diseases physician, came to Tucson for a residency and fellowship. Madeline earned a teaching degree from Brooklyn College in New York, taught art in schools in Queens and Brooklyn, and lived in New Mexico before settling down in Tucson.
Madeline had two requirements for a place she could live comfortably: a university and kosher butcher. She is a top Realtor who has been helping people make “all the right moves” since 1980, taught at Hebrew High School (HHS) for 25 years and served on the Tucson Hebrew Academy (THA) board for more than 20 years.
The couple’s four children attended THA and one of their five grandchildren currently is a THA student (the others don’t live in Tucson). Madeline has served as President of Congregation Anshei Israel, and this year she is the Chair of the Women’s Philanthropy Campaign at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona (JFSA), where she also serves as a board member. “We need to ensure financial support for our Jewish agencies to remain strong. I help ensure that our women donors understand how important their gifts are to our Jewish community,” she said.“Madeline is a long-time board member who cares deeply and brings a lot of creativity to her board service,” said Stuart Mellan, JFSA President & CEO. “She has been devoted to our Jewish community for decades.”
Barry’s name is synonymous with preserving and teaching the Jewish heritage of the American Southwest. In 2012, the Jewish History Museum honored him with the annual Jewish Heritage Award, which honors those who have made outstanding contributions to the museum’s mission and the wider community.
The Friedman Family Jewish History Building at 564 South Stone Avenue is a historic downtown landmark. The Friedmans discovered it when Madeline took her HHS class there for a visit and Barry tagged along the night the HHS students talked about family histories with students from the adjacent Prince Chapel African Methodist Church. He was hooked and wanted to get involved.
The building was the first synagogue built in the Arizona Territory and home to Temple Emanu-El for nearly 40 years. It was occupied by various organizations after that, eventually sitting vacant and falling into disrepair.
In 1997, an interested member of the Jewish community purchased the building and subsequently established the Stone Avenue Temple Project to restore it. The building is now the location of the Jewish History Museum. An adjacent 1880s barrio-style home now houses the Museum’s renovated Gould Family Holocaust History Center, bringing to life the stories of our local Holocaust survivors as well as contemporary human rights issues.
A BizTucson story quoted Barry: “We want this to be a campus that inspires meaningful exchange about history and our individual abilities to influence the world into the future – and do this in ways that help everyone feel at home.”“Every successful project needs a champion. Barry was that tireless champion for the Jewish History Museum,” said Stuart Mellan, JFSA President & CEO. “The Museum and Holocaust History Center wouldn’t be where it is today without his leadership in gaining community engagement.”
Barry served as president of the Stone Avenue Temple Project and then the Museum board of directors for 10 years and continues as an active volunteer. Another Jewish history project now on his mind is the historic Jewish cemetery with 19 graves near Douglas, Arizona. He also speaks to community groups and gives tours of Jewish pioneer grave sites at Evergreen Cemetery in Tucson.
“After much discussion and work, I am thrilled with the partnership created among the Jewish History Museum, the Federation and the Foundation,” said Barry. “I think what we’ve done together will continue to serve our Jewish community and the wider community long into the future.”
Written by Deborah Daun
Danny & Janis Gasch: Devoted to each other, their family and their community
Danny had just arrived in Tucson from Montreal when he decided to attend a Shabbat dinner sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s singles group, which happened to be hosted by Janis at her home. Now married for 31 years, they have two adult children, Molly and Sam. Molly is a marketing strategist with BBDO Worldwide and Sam is an aspiring writer, actor and comedian.
Over the decades, Danny and Janis have given back to their Jewish and wider communities in so many ways. She was President of the Board of Directors at Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona when Molly was born in 1991, and served on the agency’s Celebration of Caring volunteer event committee this year. Janis has volunteered on and off for the Federation since 1980 and this year, she is co-chairing the Lion of Judah Endowment campaign.
Janis is an audiologist who has run a successful practice, now with three offices, since the early 1980s. She has served as President of the Arizona Speech-Language Hearing Association; and the American Academy of Audiology named her Humanitarian of Year in 2003, in part because of her work with the all-volunteer multi-specialty St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic in Nogales, Arizona. She and her staff have volunteered for 40 years to help the 250 children from both sides of the border that volunteer professionals serve every month through the Clinic. Janis and her staff also have organized a donation drive for the past six years, collecting winter coats blankets, toys and non-perishable food items.
Danny was in public accounting for more than 20 years in Montreal and Tucson. Prior to joining Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) in 2001 as Chief Financial Officer, he was Director in Charge of the Tucson office of Deloitte and Touche LLP. RCSA provides catalytic and opportunistic funding for innovative scientific research and the development of early career academic physical scientsts-advancing American competitiveness in science and technology.Janis’ great great grandparents immigrated to New York. Growing up in Queens, she didn’t think about being Jewish because generations of Jews and her Jewish community were all around her. When she moved to Tucson to attend graduate school at the University of Arizona, she felt like a minority for the first time in her life, so she sought out Jewish organizations that are important to her. Janis is a long-time Lion of Judah and has endowed her Lion through the use of a life insurance policy.
As part of the Federation’s leadership group in the early 1980s, Danny was encouraged to volunteer with a local Jewish agency. He asked to serve at the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona because legacy resonated so strongly with him. And he has served on the Board since then.
“It’s important to leave something behind,” Danny said. He is the son of Holocaust survivors from Hungary and Slovakia who immigrated first to Israel and then to Canada. Most of his family on both sides perished in the Holocaust and “only memories remain.” He too grew up in a strong Jewish community, with a circle of support comprised primarily of survivors and their children, in lieu of family.
Danny helped start JETCO and was the organization’s first Board Chair. He was President of the Board of the Tucson Hebrew Academy when Molly and Sam attended the school, and he served as Treasurer for the school and other organizations, including the Federation and the Foundation, where he continues to serve as a past Board President. He also has chaired and served on numerous Foundation committees.
The Foundation’s mission and reputation are important to Danny. “We play an outsized role nationally. I compare the Foundation to a fighter who punches above his or her weight class. We’ve raised more money than similar-sized foundations, and the people who are engaged are very engaged,” he said.
Danny also points out that JCF has led the way with board participation, next generation education, strategic grant making, and the Endowment Book of Life, which he and Janis signed early on. The Gasch Family Endowment Fund at the Foundation will ensure that the charities that are important to them now will continue to be funded in their names forever. The Fund, which is also designed to assist their children with their future charitable intentions, is funded through several life insurance vehicles.
Written by Deborah Daun
Dr. Sam Goldfein believed in giving everyone a chance.
A lifelong teacher and learner, Sam Goldfein, M.D., was respected and loved by his medical students at the University of Arizona (UA).
So when Dr. Goldfein–a founding professor of the UA College of Medicine and pioneer of preventative health care–passed away, his family and friends established an endowment fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona in his name. The fund gives financial assistance to a UA College of Medicine student who exhibits the qualities that Dr. Goldfein exemplified–commitment to patient care and service to the community–with the hope that he or she will carry on Dr. Goldfein’s legacy.
Each spring, Dr. Goldfein’s son, Nathan, travels from his home in New Mexico to present the award at the College of Medicine’s Award Ceremony. This year, two of his three children–Ziva, 9, and Ahava, 11–accompanied their father to the podium at the award ceremony. While the children never had the opportunity to know their grandfather personally, this award and the stories told to them by their grandmother, Ann (of blessed memory), keep his legacy alive. Nathan, through his actions, is ensuring that his father’s legacy is carried from generation to generation.
This year, the Goldfein family presented the award to graduating medical student Katherine Nielson. She graduated from University of California-Irvine (UCI) with a B.A. in Public Health Policy and a minor in Family Human Development and worked at UCI’s Beckman Laser Institute.
She completed nearly 300 hours of community service since matriculating at the University of Arizona in August of 2012. Katherine was a frequent volunteer in Art Works, Tot Shots, Casa de los Ninos, Medical Students Educating Teens (MedSET), Juniors Active in Wheelchair Sports (JAWS), Women’s Clinic, the Inmate Health Program at the Pima County Jail, and she served as a Student-In-Charge of the Shubitz Family Clinic for uninsured people in the Tucson area.
In addition, Katherine organized and participated in Charity Runs in Tucson and helped with the Special Olympics. She is dedicated to caring for the underserved and reinforced that commitment during many rural rotations in third and fourth year and was elected to the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Katherine certainly demonstrates the traits that Dr. Goldfein represented.
“I am very honored to be the recipient of the 2016 Dr. Sam Goldfein Memorial Award. Winning this award is tremendously meaningful personally as I share many of the same values and aspire to contribute to society with compassion and excellence as he did.” ~Katherine Nielson, 2016 Dr. Sam Goldfein Memorial Award recipient.
Written by Deborah Daun
Ted & Melissa Goldfinger: A Family Mitzvah Corp
“Mom, you know that feeling you get when you volunteer? It’s so cool.” Thirteen-year-old Sam and his mom, Melissa Goldfinger, are philanthropic partners together with the support of his dad, Ted. They are involved everywhere.
One of their favorite projects is Many Mitzvah Makers (3M), a program they started together at Tucson Hebrew Academy (THA). 3M is for youth in grades 4 – 7 at THA and other schools in the Tucson area. Students meet monthly and participate in projects that give back to the community. Among its many mitzvahs, 3M has packed food bags for hungry students at Homer Davis Elementary School, made menorahs for residents of Handmaker, and provided toys and blankets for shelter animals.
Melissa is all in. She can be found helping out at THA or planning a Federation event. She just endowed her gift to the Federation by creating the Melissa Goldfinger Lion of Judah Endowment Fund here at the Foundation. That way, her annual gift to the Federation will continue in perpetuity. Melissa and Sam talk a lot about volunteering and the financial side of philanthropy, and Melissa knows he’ll make good decisions when he is an adult.
“Endowing my gift is reassuring. I like knowing that when I’m gone, my gift will be there and continue to fund what I believe in,” said Melissa, who was as spurred on by her friend Angie Goorman, Ph.D. Both women are part of the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Lion of Judah program. It was after serving on a Federation grants committee a few years ago (before the Federation and Foundation aligned their grants program) that Melissa wanted to give more. Because of the grants program, she understood more personally how her gifts helped meet myriad needs locally and in our Partnership2Gether communities, Kiryat Malachi and Hof Ashkelon in Israel.
Melissa and her husband of 15 years also currently support charitable organizations through the Tedd and Melissa Goldfinger Donor Advised Fund (DAF), also at the Foundation. Distributions from their DAF have benefitted Beads of Courage, Ben’s Bells, Community Food Bank, Tucson Hebrew Academy, and Youth on Their Own. Melissa and Tedd, together with Sam, signed the DAF agreement in 2013 at a signing ceremony with JCF’s legacy officer Amy Hirshberg Lederman.
Donors and fund advisors may recommend distributions from Donor Advised Funds to qualified 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations; Jewish or not, local, regional or national. Distributions may be recommended at any time including future years, allowing each DAF holder to decide when organizations receive their support.
Melissa is a retired cardiac nurse, and Tedd is a cardiologist with Desert Cardiology. They celebrated Sam’s bar mitzvah a few weeks ago. Tedd’s son and Melissa’s stepson Ryan is 32 years old and another son/stepson Adam is of blessed memory.
Written by Deborah Daun
In 1968, the Grusin family started regularly visiting an eastside Tucson dude ranch that Butch Grusin first visited when he was 12 years old. This city family from Chicago thoroughly enjoyed the desert and learned to ride horses during their frequent visits. That dude ranch evolved into Canyon Ranch, which Brina Grusin and friends continued to visit over the years.
Brina and Butch bought their first home in Tucson in 1990 and retired to Tucson in 2002. At the invitation of Esther Sherberg soon after they retired, the Grusins signed the Endowment Book of Life, which started a process that began with a signature and culminated with a legacy plan. By signing the Endowment Book of Life, they acknowledged that at some point in their lives, they would take the time to create a legacy plan focused on their dreams and passions.
Before Butch passed away in 2005, he fulfilled his Book of Life promise by establishing an endowment fund at JCF that supports Congregation Anshei Israel.
Not long after, Brina joined the JCF grants committee for three years and established her own endowment fund that she is contributing to during her lifetime with tax-free IRA distributions. She has set a giving goal for herself, which she hopes to meet or exceed during her lifetime.
Brina makes annual distributions from her endowment fund to five organizations: Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, Congregation Anshei Israel, Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Jewish History Museum in Tucson, and the Counseling Center for Women in Israel.
“We never had any questions about JCF helping us with our philanthropy. The staff is very open and donor centered. They want to help you fulfill your wishes,” says Brina, who gives her time as well. She serves on the JCF board, board governance committee, and again on the grants committee; is a board member for the Tucson Symphony, chair of the Federation’s Lion of Judah women’s group, and is active with Congregation Anshei Israel.
The Grusins have two sons, Marty and Glenn, a daughter named Beth, and a grandson named Asher. Butch was in the manufacturing business in Chicago, and he and Brina enjoyed work related travel to Florida and Toronto, as well as other trips in Canada, Israel and Europe.
Brina went back to college when she turned 40, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Judaic Studies from Spertus College. “I have always been active with my synagogues in Chicago and Tucson, and after I graduated, my focus expanded to the wider Jewish community, says Brina. “I am passionate about my philanthropic work.”
Written by Deborah Daun
When you meet Melissa Hall you are immediately struck by her warm smile and genuine caring. Combine that with a knowledge of the Jewish Community Foundation and a wonderful skill set and the result is superb customer service for Foundation donors.
She adds value in many areas, including donor services, executive support, office management, technology, marketing, graphic design, and event planning.
Melissa loves learning and meeting new challenges, and believes that when working in an office, especially a small one, everyone should be willing to work together because teamwork allows the entire team to be more effective.
Now a Legacy Coordinator for the Foundation and herself a donor, Melissa has been on staff for 14 years. In 2008, when the Jewish Community Foundation started offering Donor Advised Fund (DAF) Match − a new donor receives a $1,000 contribution to their fund when they establish a DAF with a minimum of $4,000 − she took advantage of the opportunity and opened one. Melissa contributes to the DAF every month via automatic payroll deductions.
Melissa and makes most of her financial gifts through the DAF, which, when she is gone, will roll into an endowment fund that will provide scholarships to Jewish parents who want to provide Jewish education (whether it is preschool, religious school or Jewish Day School) for their children but are in need of financial assistance.
One great joy Melissa had was serving on the steering committee of the B’nai Tzedek Program, a teen philanthropy program for youth grades 8 – 12 that was developed to instill the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam − repair of the world. She partnered with teens to help them learn about nonprofit organizations worldwide and while working with them, she saw the “light bulbs going off in in their heads”, as they realized they could make a difference. Her oldest daughter was one of the original teens in the program.
Giving also includes her time as a board member for Congregation Or Chadash and ensuring that her children Alyssa, Ashlee and Eric learn about philanthropy and Tikkun Olam. All three have participated in the Noah Warren Cohen Memorial Youth Philanthropy Program at Or Chadash, taking part in the granting process and learning more about what mom does for a living.
Melissa feels so privileged to work with so many generous people and over the years, she has learned that everyone can make a difference. “The number of zeros at the end of a gift isn’t what determines whether one is a philanthropist,” says Melissa. “Any gift, big or small, will help people for generations to come.”
Written by Deborah Daun
The Hameroff Family
Two years ago, Matthew and Erin Hameroff received unusual Chanukah gifts from their parents: instead of the usual gift cards, they were surprised when packets of papers related to donor advised funds, philanthropy and legacy giving fell from their gift bags.
They quickly realized that their parents, David and Anne Hameroff, had established donor advised funds (DAFs) for them—one for Matthew, now 28 years old, and one for Erin, 26.
“Giving us DAFs was a good idea. I learned a lot about what my parents were doing in regards to their giving,” said Matt.
The gifts led to a family discussion that began with Anne and David sharing their values, philanthropic interests, and their own legacy plan with their son and daughter. “We wanted Matt and Erin to know why they were not getting it all,” quipped David.
They had questions about effective giving, wanting to know if it was better to give a little to a lot of nonprofits, or to provide more to one organization. They learned that they could give to a wide variety of nonprofits through their DAFs at JCF, and not just to Jewish organizations.
“I probably need to ask my parents a lot more questions,” said Matt, who has worked for several years as a Certified Public Accountant and is now considering graduate school. “I’m figuring out my personal and professional future, so it makes sense to think about my giving interests right now as well.”
“My parents are very thoughtful and have always been influential in my view of community service,” said, Erin who is working on a doctorate degree that will allow her to serve older people as a Nurse Practitioner. “My mom would drive me to my volunteer activities before I could drive.”
“Our children were active volunteers for many years, in part because our example made them see how important it is to be part of the community,” said Anne. “But we also wanted to give each of them the opportunity to direct their own financial gifts to nonprofit organizations that resonate with each of them.”
“It’s stressful to figure out what you want to support, because there are so many charities that need funding,” says Erin. She leans towards Jewish organizations that have been important in her life, such as Birthright Israel. She traveled this summer on a trip organized by Birthright and “fell in love with Israel.”
Written by Deborah Daun
Josh & Ashley Hurand: Stepping Up for a Community They Love
Generosity and community leadership are a family affair. Josh and Ashley Hurand recently opened a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) following in the footsteps of Josh’s parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, who have been giving to their community of Flint, Michigan for generations. Ashley and Josh have that same deep commitment to community here in Tucson. Ashley pointed out that she appreciates the DAF as a tool to help them better organize their annual giving.
Josh’s grandparents Art and Bess gave him Israel Bonds over the years, which he cashed to fund the DAF. “The bonds from my grandparents are the foundation for our giving,” says Josh. Ashley sees the DAF with the Foundation as a way to “help position us to give more in the future.” They also took advantage of JCF’s DAF Match program, which offers $1,000 to new donors to help meet the $5,000 DAF minimum.
Josh and Ashley did not know that the Foundation accepted more modest contributions, and expressed that they felt valued and respected throughout the process. “We don’t think that every community is like this. Tucson is a special place,” they both agreed.
To underscore their commitment to Tucson, Ashley and Josh also signed the Endowment Book of Life, promising not only to give today, but to create a legacy at some point in their lives. “There is such a sense of connection and community in Tucson,” says Ashley.
Married in November 2014, they now have a baby son, Noah Avram. Josh is a Clinical Social Worker at the VA practicing therapy with veterans. He has masters’ degrees in Social Work and Educational Psychology. Ashley also has a master’s degree in Social Work and has been with the University of Arizona for 12 years, currently working in the area of business intelligence.
In addition to their financial gifts, Ashley and Josh actively participate in the Tucson community. They are both involved in the Young Leadership Division of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, where Ashley is on the Young Women’s Cabinet, and Josh, a part of Young Men’s Group. They are currently co-chairs of the Ben Gurion Society. Josh learned more about the Foundation during an informal session, where JCF CEO Tracy Salkowitz helped to “demystify” Donor Advised Funds for the Young Men’s Group.
“It’s inspiring getting to know emerging leaders in our community, who are stepping up to take on more responsibilities,” says Josh.
Josh is a past board member for UA Hillel, assists with Jewish Latino Teen Coalition, and currently serves as a board member on the UA Poetry Center Development Council.
Ashley has done a great deal of volunteer work over the years in Phoenix, where she is from, and has been involved with numerous groups at the University of Arizona. She is looking forward to finding more opportunities to get involved in the Tucson Jewish community moving forward.
Written by Deborah Daun
Robyn Kessler & Jeff Timan and Martha & Bill Sampson: Honoring Their Children by Helping the Community
When two families approach JCF at the same time, with the same goal in mind, magic can happen.
Robyn Kessler and Jeff Timan approached the Foundation at the same time as Martha and Bill Sampson in 2001. Both couples wanted to thank Tucson Hebrew Academy for the wonderful educational experience their children Mia Timan, Bryan Langer and RJ Sampson received.
The result was the Endowment for Excellence in Education Fund that allowed both couples to recognize THA faculty members who demonstrate unusual merit in teaching and inspiring their students.
The THA community of parents, teachers and members of the Parent Teacher & Student Organization now nominate teachers who they feel have gone above and beyond in the classroom and for the school.
The honored teachers are thrilled, receiving award dollars that can be used for in-service training, conferences that further enhance competency, acquisition of classroom materials not otherwise available to enhance the learning experience, and other applications that further education to the benefit of the school.
More about Martha and Bill
Martha and Bill have a DAF and a family endowment fund with JCF that originated with Bill’s mother Charlene Sampson. “We support the Jewish community while we’re alive and want that support to continue beyond our lifetimes,” said Martha, who came to Tucson in 1978 from New York. Bill moved to Tucson from Chicago with his family when he was a teenager.
Martha has a 30-year affiliation with THA. “If there was a hat to be worn, I wore it,” she said. In addition to being a THA mom, she has served on the board and in other volunteer capacities and as an employee involved in the school’s information technology. She has also supported the Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, and Handmaker in a variety of ways.
Bill has been a high school band director, an athletic coach, a musician with the Tucson Symphony, and an investor. He currently sings with Arizona Repertory Singers and has served on the JCF grants committee and as a THA coach for volleyball, softball and basketball
More about Robyn and Jeff
Robyn and Jeff have two family Donor Advised Funds (DAF) with the Foundation.
“It’s up to us to support the Jewish community,” said Robyn, who headed west to Tucson from Atlanta in 1979. Jeff’s family has been in real estate in Tucson since the 1950s.
The couple owns Hacienda de Sol Guest Ranch Resort, where she enjoys running the gift shop and Jeff, a sculptor, is involved with landscaping and art collection at the resort.
Jeff helped start the sculpture garden at the Jewish Community Center and both he and Robyn have served on the UA Dean’s Board of the College of Fine Arts. They are UA Medici Circle members, helping the College support young scholars and artists.
Robyn helped start and serves on the board of the 1st Rate 2nd Hand resale shop, proceeds from which support Jewish not-for-profit agencies. She is a a specially trained Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer appointed by a Juvenile Court Judge to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in court proceedings.
Our JCF donors never cease to amaze us with their generosity and vision!
Written by Deborah Daun
Andy & Linda Kunsberg: Like Daughter, Like Parents
When Andy Kunsberg retired three years ago, he and his wife Linda decided they needed to follow in the footsteps of their daughter Rebecca.
“She worked at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona (JFSA) at the time. Linda and I just decided that it was time. We too, needed to be more connected to the Jewish community and give back,” says Andy.
They set up a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) at the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona (JCF), in part to organize their current giving. They also established an endowment fund when they learned that it would allow them to fund their favorite organizations and causes forever, and they wrote a letter about their values and wishes to their daughters.
“Foundation staff lead by example. They treat everyone so well, no matter one’s status, and they make the whole process easy,” says Andy, who ran Pima Uniforms for 40 years and befriended many of the Tucson’s police officers and fire fighters. Linda retired as a configuration analyst five years ago after 39.5 years with Raytheon.
They both donate their time now. Through a JFSA-sponsored program, Linda organizes the Hadassah volunteers who pack food every Thursday for 65 children at Homer Davis Elementary School to take home for the weekend.
She is a friendly visitor with the Holocaust Survivor Program at Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona, volunteers once a year at the Tucson Rodeo, and checks in and tracks patients once a week in orthopedic surgery at the nonprofit Tucson Medical Center. She’s following in the footsteps of her mother Frances Sonkin, who volunteered at what is now Banner University Medical Center.
Linda and Andy both give their time to The Shyann Kindness Project, where he serves on the board and they both pack and deliver new toys, books and toiletries to schools with a high percentage of students whose families have low incomes.
Andy also is on the boards of the Mason Masonic Lodge, Tucson Police Foundation, and the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation, an organization with a fund at JCF to which Fire Foundation supporters can contribute.
“I enjoyed making the people who protect us look good when I ran the uniform store,” says Andy. “I was very lucky to do well in business and to have the opportunity to meet so many fine people. Giving back now through volunteer service is the right thing to do.”
Andy and Linda also enjoy traveling and spending time with family. Rebecca met her husband Ted at Hillel and they now live in Indiana with their children, Emma (3.5) and Isaac (1.5). Youngest daughter Sara, and her husband Tal met on JDate and live in New Jersey with their children, Julia (2.5) and Jacob (1).
Written by Deborah Daun
Dot Kret: Corporate DAF Simplifies Giving
Dot Kret is devoted to helping people with disabilities become both employable and employed, and she does it in a variety of creative ways.
Dot owns four businesses that serve people with disabilities. DKA provides rehabilitation and job training. Archive Advantage employs DKA clients to scan documents and photographs and convert audio and video to digital files, and her PakMail packing and shipping franchise also employs DKA clients. Dorothy Kret & Associates offers expert testimony in disability-related legal cases.
According to Dot, the only thing for which there is no accommodation is a lack of motivation. “The motivationally-challenged do not make it through our programs.”
Her companies make charitable monetary contributions through a relatively new corporate Donor Advised Fund (DAF) at the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. “I like the convenience of a donor advised fund and I believe in the Foundation’s mission,” says Dot, who is married to Michael Lex. They have two adult sons, David and Nathan.
Others benefit from Dot’s generosity too. She donated Archive Advantage services to the January 8th Memorial Foundation, where she serves on the Board of Directors. Her team scanned all of the letters, cards, photographs and other two-dimensional items mailed and left by mourners at the three temporary memorials that sprung up after the shooting in which six people died and 13 were wounded. “It gave my staff opportunities to involve themselves in something bigger than each of them,” says Dot.
Contributing her framed photography and Archive Advantage and Pak Mail gift certificates to charitable auctions is something she enjoys doing too. Dot also had a good time going “Over the Edge” for the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona last year, raising funds from friends and family and then rappelling down the side of a very tall building.
She is a member of the Tucson Rotary Club, on the board of the UA’s Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW), and a founding Linkages board member. Dot is a member of the Pima County Workforce Investment Boards, which is charged with providing recommendations on local workforce policy and oversight of the local OneStop system that connects eligible job ready youth, adult, and dislocated workers with jobs. She’s also a new member of the State’s Vocational Rehabilitation Advisory Board.
Written by Deborah Daun
Len & Harriet Kronman
Feed the body first; then it’s possible to feed the mind and the soul. These words from Len’s father had an impact on Len, who together with his wife Harriet, brings these words to life every day.
Caridad Community Kitchen and Culinary School is one program they support with both their volunteer time and distributions from the donor advised fund (DAF) they opened at the Jewish Community Foundation a decade ago.
“This program feeds the body−15,000 to 20,000 hot meals a month−and the mind, with 50 graduates annually drawn primarily from the unemployed population. Once people know where their next meal is coming from, they can think about improving their lives,” says Len, who was pleased when an early idea of his morphed, when the time was right, into this program at The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
Through the literacy program, Harriet works with an adult student from Liberia and her family. “It has been said ‘whatever you give, you get back 10-fold.’ This family has great courage and there is so much satisfaction in working with them,” says Harriet, whose own family includes three sons. Len has a son and a daughter and together, they have three grandchildren, and a great grandchild on the way.
They also are working together on a fundraising event for the Sister Jose Women’s Shelter, and they are part of the team looking at the best ways for the shelter to grow.
The couple has a variety of connections with JCF, including a stint for Len on the Foundation’s grants allocation committee a few years ago. Because of this experience and the exposure to the wide variety of needs in the community, Len and Harriet’s wish is that their DAF become an endowed fund in the future, with distributions from the fund supporting, year after year, JCF’s Community Grants Program, as well as the Kronman’s favorite organizations.
Len also is a collector of art, primarily the work of living American artists. Their generosity includes loaning part of the collection to JCF to display throughout the offices.
Both successful business executives, they met one another at a Jewish Community Center function in Rockville, Maryland just three days before Len moved back to Boston. “We were so lucky to meet each other late in life,” says Len.
“Our meeting was beshert. We now have a very full life and are as busy now as when we were working. We feel so fortunate and we love Tucson. We don’t live big. We don’t travel extensively. We both focus on what we can do for the community,” says Harriet.
Written by Deborah Daun
Brenna Lacey & Steve Rodgveller: The Art of Giving Back
It’s important to ask and then listen for the answers. As a young professional, Brenna Lacey said “yes” when the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona asked her to participate in young leadership events, and again when Carol Karsch from the Jewish Community Foundation asked her to serve on the Foundation’s real estate committee.
“Both Carol and the folks at the Federation clearly heard what my interests were and invited me to participate in ways that were meaningful to me,” said Brenna, who has been in commercial real estate 34 years and community service for most of her life. Brenna has served in many roles in the Jewish community, including President of the Foundation Board of Trustees.
She continues as an active leader at JCF, with several other past Foundation presidents who continue participation as lifetime trustees. This is a good tradition, Brenna says, because it ensures the Foundation always has both new leadership and institutional memory around their decision-making table.“It has been a great honor to work with so many fabulous leaders and donors in Tucson,” said Brenna. “Over the years, I’ve been blessed by an irreplaceable ‘family’ of mentors I treasure and who continue to inspire me beyond their lifetimes. Where else could I have worked with such wonderful men like Saul Tobin, Lou Pozez and Gerry Gendell, all of blessed memory. I miss them very much.”
Although Steve Rodgveller joined the Foundation Board of Trustees and the Grants Committee just last year, he says he feels as if he has been married to the Foundation just as long as he has been married to Brenna (26 years)!
Steve is seven years into his second career. He is part of a national financial consulting firm that helps clients prioritize their retirement, wealth transfer and business planning needs. Previously, he was a principal in Allstate Vehicles for 35 years. He is a former President of Hillel and has served as a board member of Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona and the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona.
Brenna and Steve are members of Congregation Or Chadash and have deep connections to one another, their family and friends, and our Tucson community. Partly because they want those connections to live on, they signed the Endowment Book of Life early on and have created a legacy plan with the Foundation’s assistance. They also have a donor advised fund that supports their current giving.
Steve has great memories of dressing up like a cowboy at Old Tucson during childhood visits to Arizona. In 1969, his family made a permanent move to Tucson from Brooklyn to be closer to his father’s older sisters, who had already made the move from New York. Steve drove directly from Woodstock (yes, that Woodstock) with a Led Zeppelin tape and a dog name Casper to join his family. In his Italian-Jewish neighborhood back in Brooklyn, Steve had been a soda jerk in the family owned Rodger’s Luncheonette. In Tucson, his uncle Seymour, of blessed memory, owned Roger’s Deli at Speedway and Rosemont.
Judaism was an important part of Brenna Lacey’s youth in Boston and Phoenix. She was raised in a reform synagogue with a charismatic youth rabbi, where Jewish values and rituals strengthened her identity. She was the regional president for B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG) in high school, which helped her create relationships with Jewish families in Tucson before she moved here. She remembers working with mentally challenged kids through BBG and “adopting” a Jewish grandmother in the local Jewish nursing home. Those experiences stayed with her as guiding values. Brenna moved to Tucson in 1972 and worked as a legal secretary while at the University of Arizona, where she started a lifetime of relationships with Tucson friends who she and Steve call their “village” to this day.
Brenna’s college friend, Debbie Goodman Butler, even helped her find a husband! Adjacent appointments at the hair salon the three of them had in common allowed Debbie and Steve to chat between stints in their stylist’s chair. Debbie suggested that he give Brenna a call, and the rest is history. Clearly a good shidduch!
The Rodgveller/Lacey family includes two daughters from Steve’s prior marriage, Cara and Molly, and a dog named Max. Cara and her husband Peter are fishery biologists in Alaska and Molly is an artist and teaches English in a European Union school in Brussels.
On Brenna’s 45th birthday, Steve presented her with a gift certificate for an art class at the nonprofit Drawing Studio. “She took to it like a fish to water,” he said. Her resume now includes art shows for her paintings, jewelry making, and she serves as President of The Drawing Studio board of directors, which has a rich history of service to the Tucson community.
Steve took art classes too. “Activating both the left and right sides of the brain makes you a whole person,” he says, “sort of like a good marriage. Exploring the process of creativity is a path for personal growth.”
While art shows are not part of Steve’s resume, what he learned through The Drawing Studio has helped him see the world in different ways and take a more Zen-like approach to his life, including the art of golf. “Steve absorbs and remembers everything,” said Brenna, “Every time he plays a round of golf, he learns something new and takes it with him to the next game. He’s like that in the rest of his life, too.”
Written by Deborah Daun
Bertie Levkowitz: Helping Children Today Build Tomorrow’s Jewish Community
When 11-year-old Bertie Levkowitz’s family immigrated to Los Angeles in 1953, they found a city with very little in the way of a Jewish community. This lack of connection resonated with their lives in the Netherlands as well because the once thriving Jewish culture had been decimated by World War II.
During the war, Bertie was separated from her parents for four years and passed from house to house for safety during which time her parents were being helped by an underground network. Many of Bertie’s family members died in the Holocaust, including her mother’s brother for whom she is named.
“My parents were connected with Jewish traditions in the Netherlands before the War, but not after it ended,” Bertie said. “I had never heard the word ‘Shabbat’ before moving to the United States and then not until I was in high school.”
In her teens, Bertie was introduced to B’nai B’rith Girls (BBG). “I didn’t realize until joining this organization that I wasn’t connected, because I had not been part of anything Jewish until then,” she said.
She was introduced to her husband Jack Levkowitz by his sister, who was her BBG leader. Bertie completed her degree in English and political science from the University of California, Berkeley and then married Jack (of blessed memory) and moved to Tucson in 1964. Jack was one of seven children from a family steeped in Jewish traditions and very connected to the Jewish community in Tucson.
Bertie was thrilled with the Jewish network she found in Tucson. She has been part of the National Council of Jewish Women, the Tucson chapter of the Brandeis National Committee, Hadassah, Congregation Anshei Israel, Congregation Chofetz Chayim, and the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. Her greatest philanthropic passion has been and continues to be Tucson Hebrew Academy whose board she currently chairs.
Jack and Bertie have two adult children—Helene and Howard—and four grandchildren. She worked together with Jack in his dental practices.
Carol Karsch, who headed the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona (JCF) at the time, approached Bertie in 1998 about starting an endowment fund for THA in memory of Jack. They decided to name it in honor of both Jack and Bertie. Hundreds of donors contributed and “by the time Jack was buried, there was $25,000 in the Dr. Jack and Bertie Levkowitz THA Endowment Fund.”
Bertie has actively grown the fund with the help of her children and others to more than $100,000 and she adds to it every year. She decided not to wait, so the fund has made a distribution to THA annually since 2006.
“From the day Rabbi Arthur Oleisky had the idea to start a Jewish day school, Jack never let go and never stopped caring about the school,” Bertie said.
When she signed Tucson’s Endowment Book of Life and established the fund at JCF, Bertie wrote: “As a child survivor of the Holocaust, I knew the emptiness of growing up without a functioning Jewish community. Tucson gave me a community to which I could belong. My single greatest contribution has been participation in the creation of a Jewish day school for the children of today, for they will be the builders of tomorrow’s community.”
Bertie is now married to Thomas Herz and divides her time between Tucson and Wisconsin.
Written by Deborah Daun
Stu & Nancy Mellan: Making a Difference, Today, Tomorrow and Always
Stu and Nancy Mellan are amazing gifts to our community. Their enthusiastic commitment and dedication is felt in everything they do. In realizing that they wanted their dedication to continue in perpetuity, they created the Mellan Family Endowment Fund.
Both of them were widowed and had five children between them when they met and married nearly 24 years ago. Their newly blended family was just three years old when Stu, at Nancy’s urging, accepted the offer to lead the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona (JFSA). They left Allentown, Pennsylvania where Stu directed the local Federation, and headed across county. Nancy was born in Phoenix and knew she loved the desert; the rest of the family made themselves at home too.
“As we thought about our legacy, we decided that it was important to us to create a fund in perpetuity through the Jewish Community Foundation. Stu has spent his life and career in Tikkun Olam through his Federation work. This has been our way of living our core values of kindness and compassion and our need to help others along with community. Together we have learned much about philanthropy, the great needs of others in the world and in our Tucson community, and about family love,” reflected Nancy Mellan in a note to their children.
“Our Jewish tradition teaches that our key value, in fact our responsibility, is to make this world a better place now and for future generations. Hopefully, as Jewish parents, Stu and I have taught and modeled this, so that all of our children and grandchildren will continue in these values, doing their part to make a better world,” says Nancy.
The Mellan Family Endowment Fund will provide annual support for JFSA, fund an annual artist in residency project at a local synagogue or Jewish agency, and support food security programs in the local general community.
In addition to being a family man and leading the Federation, Stu plays jazz piano in his band, Birks Works, named for a song by Dizzy Gillespie. The band has regular gigs in Tucson and played this year for the first time at the Tucson Jazz Festival.
Nancy founded the Zuzi Dance Company 15 years ago, and soon after that created the Tucson Jewish Arts Alliance. Currently, she is a writing member of The Dry River Poets and works as a fiber artist.
“My work, Nancy’s work, our philanthropy, family, friendships and other interests are entwined. Signing this agreement is an extension of who we are and what we do,” says Stu.
Written by Deborah Daun
Tracy Salkowitz & Rick Edwards: A Penchant for Fun and Giving Back
Hang out with Tracy Salkowitz and Rick Edwards and you’ll see for yourself how much they “love doing life together!” Married for 14 years, they share a penchant for fun, and a huge commitment to giving back personally and professionally.
The couple met when both worked for Alameda County Social Services Agency in the California Bay Area; Rick headed the data analysis team and Tracy was in charge of planning. Tracy is from Los Angeles and Rick grew up in Northern California. He spent four years in the Navy as a Spanish linguist and then moved back to his home state to get a college degree.
Tucson became home four years ago when Tracy landed her dream job: Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. Rick had retired before moving to the desert and has been “extraordinarily supportive of me and the Jewish community,” says Tracy.
“We’ve become invested in the Tucson community,” says Rick. “Everyone has been welcoming. There are so many people here from other places, so they know what’s it’s like to move and resettle in a new community.”
Like other JCF donors, Tracy and Rick have a donor advised fund (DAF) and an endowment fund. They make regular monthly gifts by credit card or checks; and make their bigger gifts through their DAF. Tracy also makes an annual gift to the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, making her a Lion of Judah.
They have established two testamentary endowment funds that will be funded after their lifetimes. Distributions from the Roshann Salkowitz Pressman Endowment Fund, which is named for Tracy’s daughter, will be directed to the agency through which Tracy adopted Roshann: Jewish Family & Children’s Services in San Francisco. The Tracy Salkowitz and Richard Edwards Endowment Fund will support the Emerging and Emergency Jewish Needs Fund supporting the future of our Jewish community.
Rick has three adult children and two grandchildren. “Nobody loves his family like Rick does,” says Tracy. They travel in their free time and Rick enjoys golf, genealogy and creating videos for family and friends. Tracy enjoys quilting and reading. Her extensive reading list includes history and bestsellers from the 1950s and 60s because she’s interested in “what inspired and motivated people back in the day.”
She is passionate about serving the Jewish community, and has been since she returned from her first trip to Israel when she was 21 years old. “If we care about our community, we need to do whatever we can individually and collectively,” she said.
Tracy received her master’s degree in Community Social Work from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University in 1982. Since then, she has headed a number of organizations and was a consultant specializing in advocacy, organizational development and coalition building.
“For me, I think that ever since I was a small child, I wanted to make the world a better place. It is why the work at JCF is so important,” said Tracy. “It is what we do; we make a difference.”
Written by Deborah Daun
Jim Shiner signed the Endowment Book of Life because he thought he should have a legacy plan. He worked with JCF legacy expert Amy Hirschberg Lederman on how to create a unique plan, realizing during the discussions that there were many ways to involve his son Michael, who lives in Tucson, and daughter Mika, who resides in California. Michael participated in the meetings with Jim and Amy.
Because of their maturity, Jim wanted to give his daughter and son the opportunity to become philanthropists now, with no limitations on what they can support. Michael is a Tucson realtor and developer who serves as a Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona (JFSA) board member and a steering committee member for the Desert Caucus. Mika has a master’s degree in social work and counseling and works with troubled children in a San Francisco school district.
“I was thrilled to be able to help Jim craft a legacy plan that is unique to him and his family and one that fits with where all of them are in their lives,” said Amy.
Jim created and funded the Shiner Family Donor Advised Fund, which will grow for a few years before Jim, Michael and Mika recommend distributions from the Fund to support causes and nonprofits about which they are passionate.
Jim also established an endowment fund that will be funded after his lifetime. When earnings from the endowment fund are available for distribution, they will be deposited into the family’s Donor Advised Fund, from which Michael will recommend 50 percent of the distributions and Mika the other 50 percent.
A first grandchild is on the way and Jim hopes that his children will involve their own children in philanthropy as well. “But I leave it up to Michael and Mika as to how they will eventually involve their children. I have complete trust in them,” said Jim.
He is active in the Jewish community in Tucson, serving on the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Board of Directors for 15 years, and several JCC committees; Jim chaired the JCC search committee that hired a new chief executive officer. He is a member of the Desert Caucus and participates in JFSA’s Super Sunday. Originally from Pittsburg, Jim stayed in Tucson after graduating from the University of Arizona law school. He was a practicing attorney for more than 10 years and has been a real estate developer since 1985.
Thanks to the vision and generosity of David Spring and his son Ken, donors have opened more than 60 new Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) at JCF, which, in turn, have distributed millions of dollars to our community.
The Spring family’s generosity allows JCF to offer an incentive match to prospective new donors, who can receive a $1,000 contribution to a Donor Advised Fund when they establish with a minimum of $4,000.*
David provided the funds to launch the Donor Advised Fund Match Program (DAFM) and continued to support it during his lifetime. Ken now carries on the tradition. “”I think this program is important because it leverages funds and encourages philanthropy. The outcome of the program has been phenomenal!” said Ken.
Ken’s philanthropic interests include supporting the programs of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, including participating in the Calabasas Golf Club’s Annual Golf Tournament that benefits the Federation. He loves that his two greatest passions come together to support worthy causes.
Ken lived in New York City until he was 16, when he moved to Tucson with his family because his dad “wanted to be a cowboy.” He is a retired attorney and avid golfer who moved to Los Angeles in 1967 and Calabasas, California in 1971. He has been married to Cheryl for the past 21 years. They each have two children and a total of eight grandchildren. He has been retired from his litigation practice for a dozen years and remains involved in his family’s New York City-based real estate company.
*Some restrictions do apply; call us for more information.
Nobody is a self-made person. Sherman has a lot of gratitude for his good fortune, but knows there are many others who played roles in his success. So he pays it forward.
“I’m a simple person. No surprises. I live and let live and do my part to make it possible for others to do the same,” says Sherman. In addition to philanthropy, he enjoys exercise, travel and technology. He is a 20-year member of the Tucson Macintosh Users’ Group and helps others with their computer challenges.
A child of the Depression, he watched his parents help others despite their own hardships. “My mom put newspapers in her shoes because the soles had holes. She then she went out and helped people through the We Will Aid Society,” says Sherman
Born and raised in Chicago, he lived there for 70 years before moving to Tucson full-time with his wife Celia*. They raised two sons, Craig and Bruce, and now have three grandsons and one great-grandson. Sherman’s multi-faceted business career included industrial recycling, power plant demolition, and leading a data processing school and financial business.
He was exercising one morning at the JCC when he befriended Harold Bongarten*, who was very active in the community. As the friendship grew, Harold shared his philosophy of responsible charitable planning and giving, including how to focus one’s efforts. Sherman and Celia subsequently created a donor-advised fund and the endowed Celia and Sherman Weitzmon Scholarship Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona (JCF). He continues to contribute to the funds with gifts of appreciated stock.
Among the causes he supports through his JCF funds are scholarships for young reporters at National Public Radio, young composers at the Tucson Symphony, students at the Tucson Hebrew Academy and young people at Congregation Bet Shalom. He helps young patients at Tucson Medical Center who have verbal dysfunctions, and gives to the Community Food Bank, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, National Jewish Health, and the Mayo Clinic.
Sherman has given a lot of thought to his legacy. “I can’t give to everything, so I support the things that matter most to me. I give while I am alive, and the funds I established will grow many years into the future,” he says.
*of blessed memory