Seventy-one current and future leaders of the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community met recently at the home of Paul and Aviva Silberberg with one clear goal -- to boost philanthropy and acts of tikkun olam. These young men and women, members of Federation's Renaissance Group Major Gifts Circle, met with great success -- pledging $304,337 for the 2009 Jewish Federation annual campaign, $31,718 of that tally representing new gifts.
Perhaps they were inspired by the spirited performance of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Day School choir during the Israel Independence Day event.
Or maybe it was the inspirational message from their host, who shared the impact that Federation and the numerous Federation-sponsored Israel missions have had on his life.
"Paul and Aviva are passionate philanthropists who are deeply committed to Federation and the critical needs it helps address here in Philadelphia, in Israel and across the globe," said Federation CEO Ira M. Schwartz, who expressed his gratitude to the Silberbergs for "opening their home for this event to these exceptional young adults."
Jeffrey Barrack, co-chair of the Major Gifts Circle along with Jill Rosen, expressed his belief that "everything thrives with a strong Federation."
In his remarks to group members -- each of whom make a minimum family gift of $5,000 to the annual campaign -- he explained that his Jewish identity, as well as his commitment to volunteerism and the State of Israel, was shaped through his Federation involvement.
Barrack recalled a memorable childhood trip to Israel with his brother, Richard, and his father, Leonard.
There, he met such key leaders as Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and the late Yitzhak Rabin. He continues to be inspired by what he called a "cherished treasure" from that trip -- " ... an incredible photo of Rabin, flanked by me, my father and my brother."
As Barrack matured, he assumed Jewish leadership positions in his own right.
He has traveled with the Philadelphia's Men's Cabinet on local missions to the Stiffel Center in South Philadelphia, and witnessed firsthand how "Federation dollars help older adults at risk." Recently, he accompanied the Renaissance Group to New Orleans, where he participated in a daylong service project at the still flood-ravished St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans.
He has also become involved with the United Jewish Communities National Young Leadership Cabinet. For example, he co-chaired last summer's Cabinet mission to Israel, and he and his wife, Michelle, will lead a couple's mission to Israel in July 2010.
He has also visited other Jewish communities around the world where Federation funds have enormous impact.
In 2002 he went to the former Soviet Union and met an older man in St. Petersburg who made an indelible impression on him.
"He looked me in the eyes and said unequivocally that without our Federation dollars, he would have no apartment, no food," reported Barrack. "The gentleman told me that without Federation funds, I would not be alive," he commented. And "I believed him."
Barrack also expressed belief in the importance of a thriving Federation to assure the continued vibrancy and vitality of a day-school education.
Barrack's 7-year-old daughter, Madison, told her father that she wants to attend the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School next year because she wants to go to school with Jews to ease the discomfort she felt by the bombardment of non-Jewish songs and images during the December holiday season.
"Maddie wants to celebrate the Jewish holidays with fellow students," said Barrack. And he conveyed his pleasure that Jewish education is one of Federation's funding priorities.
Barrack's co-chair, Jill Rosen, shared his enthusiasm for Federation and its support of Jewish education.
Professionally, Rosen is director of development for OROT, a special-education initiative in the Greater Philadelphia Jewish day schools.
She is also the parent of 9-year-old Josh, a third-grader at Perelman, and 11-year-old Sam, a fifth-grade student at Perelman who will attend the Robert Saligman Middle School this fall.
Jewish day-school education is important to Rosen because she wants "them to have an understanding of Kol Israel areveim zeh b'zeh -- 'that all Jews are responsible for one another.' "
She also said she felt that the future of the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community rests with donors at Renaissance's Major Gifts Circle level.
"These men and women who contribute family gifts of $5,000 or more to Federation are indeed the future leaders of our community," said Rosen. "It is important that we encourage our peers to give at this level."
She described the Renaissance group as a contingent of "dedicated young people who want to effect change. It is extremely inspiring to be surrounded by people who share the same values of tzedakah and tikkun olam."
She credited Renaissance chair Greg Jaron with infusing this group of 25- to 45-year-olds with energy and excitement: "He has made Renaissance the place to be for young Jewish men and women."
To learn more, call Alison Margulies at 215-832-0513 or e-mail: [email protected] .