Legacy magazine: Giving for Life – Philanthropy at Every Stage
Jewish tradition views giving back as a universal obligation independent of time or circumstance. At the Jewish Community Foundation, we customize our philanthropic guidance for every donor, whatever their age or stage in life. From teaching families about financial literacy to helping identify charitable passions and advising on charitable estate planning, we’re here to serve our donors’ changing needs.
The Midlife Donor
For donor Sandy Sigal, 59, The Foundation’s accessibility is central to its ongoing relevance for people across generations. “I have four children from ages 21 to 31, and we take an active approach to family giving, involving everyone in the process,” he says. “Our Donor Advised Fund (DAF) at The Foundation makes it super easy to give. Putting money into it is straightforward and hassle-free.”
Growing up as the son of a single mother in Van Nuys, Sigal learned the value of tzedakah early on. “My mom worked as a paralegal full-time to make ends meet. She’d head to her office before I left for school each morning and return well after I’d returned home each afternoon,” he recalls. With so much unsupervised time, Sigal had ample opportunity to get into trouble. But one day, having been caught stealing candy, he began to appreciate the transformative power of investing in a community.
Our Donor Advised Fund (DAF) at The Foundation makes it super easy to give. Putting money into it is straightforward and hassle-free.
“In her desperation about what to do with me, my mom called The Jewish Federation, and they put her in touch with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters in Los Angeles. I ended up spending two summers at the program’s Camp Max Straus [now Camp Bob Waldorf], and it changed my life,” he says.
Now an influential real estate developer, Sigal never forgot how charitable programs like Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters changed his life’s trajectory. “I remember thinking, ‘Man, what a difference those people made for me. How can I pay it forward to make sure I’m able to give other kids that same experience?’ Today, I’m president of the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters Board of Directors, and my kids have all been counselors in training at Camp Max Straus.”
Sigal hosts an annual family meeting that gathers everyone together to map out their philanthropic contributions for the year ahead. “We discuss our achievements over the past year and our family’s finances, which gives the kids a window into how money is made, how hard it is to earn it, and how privileged they are to have means at their disposal,” he says. “Then we talk about ways we can use those means to improve our society.”
The Sigals have concentrated on issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, homelessness, and educational support for disadvantaged children. “My kids know my mantra is ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,’ and they believe that, as Jews, we have a responsibility to care about the greater good.”
The Younger Donor
When her ailing father-in-law was approaching the end of his life, Foundation trustee and donor Daniella Naim Kahen, 37, sought a way to honor him. “He was an inspiring figure in my life, and I wanted to leave a legacy for him,” she says. So she reached out to The Foundation to start a conversation.
“Staff at The Foundation got to know me, and helped me brainstorm about my philanthropic goals. They were just amazing, connecting me with resources and people to talk to,” she says.
With help from The Foundation’s expert staff, Kahen established a giving circle that would direct money to a DAF. “I gathered 20 women together, and we raised money and then solicited presentations from various nonprofits working to support Jewish education in LA,” Kahen says.
Staff at The Foundation got to know me, and helped me brainstorm about my philanthropic goals.
One of the things she likes best about the DAF is its flexibility. “My family was later able to use our fund in a new way when we held a Torah dedication in my father-in-law’s memory. It allowed family and friends to participate in honoring his memory by donating funds to our DAF, which we then distributed to organizations in Los Angeles and Israel as a group,” she says. “It was a really innovative way to do something charitable together.”
Kahen, a mother of four and part-time fitness instructor and health coach, is committed to carving out time in her busy schedule to pursue charitable endeavors. “We’re so blessed in the Jewish community, and I feel strongly about modeling for my kids the importance of helping others,” she says.
To that end, one of her current focuses is looking at philanthropy through a mindful giving lens. “This is something that has come out of my relationship with The Foundation and my DAF: taking the time to sit back and evaluate, ‘What do I care about? What are my priorities? How can I use my resources to make change in the world?’ This process of mindful giving is something my kids have observed and I hope they learn from it,” she says.
Kahen and her family had a chance to experience the difference that intentional giving can make first-hand by volunteering at Foundation grantee Our Big Kitchen Los Angeles (OBKLA) — a kosher, nondenominational, community-run industrial kitchen where meals are prepared for Angelenos in need.
“It was truly a full-circle experience to have served on The Foundation’s Cutting Edge Grants Committee that awarded OBKLA a grant and then to take part in what it does for the community,” she says.” I felt proud to have been able to support its wonderful work.”
The Elder Donor
At 94, Foundation donor Barbi Weinberg is the matriarch of a large family: There are 52 family members in her extended clan, including 21 great-grandchildren. Like Weinberg herself, they are all philanthropic and deeply connected to Israel.
“My [late] husband, Larry, always said it was more important to leave our kids values than money,” she says. The couple spent a lifetime building that legacy. In addition to his work as an entrepreneur who created a number of successful companies and helped guide the Portland Trailblazers to the NBA championships as co-owner of the team, Larry was also a founder, leading supporter, and former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Barbi blazed a trail of her own in 1973 when she was chosen to lead The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and became the first woman to oversee a major Jewish federation. A decade later, she founded the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, today the largest research institute devoted exclusively to studying US interests in the Middle East.
My [late] husband, Larry, always said it was more important to leave our kids values than money.
As they dedicated themselves to political activism, the Weinbergs also ramped up their charitable giving through The Foundation. For more than two decades, they have leveraged their DAF to bolster the US-Israel relationship and to strengthen their community by supporting causes like Jewish summer camps.
Barbi says the best way for budding philanthropists to get started is to follow her example of partnering with The Foundation and subscribing to her personal mantra: “Just give!”
Giving Is the Bottom Line
A sense of pride is a common thread for donors like Sigal, Kahen, and Weinberg, who may approach their charitable giving with different goals but share a mutual belief in the best way to achieve them. “If you care about the next generation and want to set an example, then give time or money to a cause that matters to you,” Sigal says. “There’s truly nothing better.”
This article was featured in The Foundation’s Spring 2023 Legacy magazine.