A Firm Belief: ‘You Can’t Live Life Without Giving’

Soon after Hilary Cooper moved to Philadelphia from Manhattan as a newlywed in 1999, she became involved in Women's Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

"I was – and continue to be – struck by the tremendous energy level women put into raising funds to support Jewish communities worldwide," she said.

Cooper noted that her husband Richard and his family's strong ties to Federation were a "strong pull" for her.

Lorraine Cooper Balis, her late mother-in-law, a longtime volunteer, was the one who presented her with her Lion of Judah pin, worn nationwide by women who make a gift of $5,000 or more to their federation's annual campaigns. Her sister-in-law, Donna Feinberg, is chair of Woman of Vision, Federation's women's foundation.

Richard Cooper has been active in Federation for more than 20 years, chairing missions and serving on the Strategic Philanthropy Committee. "He has a tremendous sense of community and of giving back," said his wife.

Cooper said she makes her own gift – perpetuated through a Lion of Judah Endowment through Women's Philanthropy – "because, as Jews, we are each responsible for one another. If we don't care for one another, then no one else will."

Indeed, Cooper has put her words into action in many ways. In May 2002, she and her husband hosted a hastily put together parlor meeting to raise funds for Federation's Israel Emergency Fund soon after attending an AIPAC conference in Washington, D.C., with her parents. "We came back pumped up, energized and angry," said Cooper, "angry that people were dying on buses and in malls.

"We spoke with Gary Erlbaum, the IEF chair," she continued, "and eight days later, some 170 people came to our home and raised nearly $3 million. There were no invitations – we called our friends and they called theirs. I didn't plan a beautiful dinner party. This was business, and people were looking for a way to help."

That same spring, Cooper also hosted the Lions in Spring event. "It was wonderful to welcome everyone and play a part in encouraging other women to become Lions that day."

And it was at the Lion's event, held this fall, that Cooper heard Sarri Singer, a speaker from "One Family," an Israeli organization providing assistance to terror victims.

"Nothing has touched me more," she said. "When we hear on the news that seven are dead and 35 injured, we don't really think about how so many of the injured don't just walk out of the hospital, but endure life-changing pain. Sarri also talked about children who have been orphaned, and I couldn't help but think of our children."

A Women's Philanthropy board member, Cooper will co-chair its "Reach for Ruby Event," with Jamie Klein on April 26 in New York. The group will view a private fine-art collection, enjoy lunch and visit Christie's auction house.

The Ruby level, which adds the jewel to the Lion of Judah pin, involves a woman giving her own gift of $10,000 or more to the annual campaign.

Cooper was practicing law in New York when Philadelphia friends fixed her up with her husband. She has an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Columbia University. The couple became engaged at the Western Wall at sunset erev Shabbat, another link, she said, to her strong feelings about Israel.

The Coopers have a blended family of four children, from ages 12 to 18, from their previous marriages, and together have identical 21?2 year-old twin girls.

"We even read the book Leila Tov to the twins at bedtime, which tells them about tzedakah and mitzvot," she said, adding, "you can't just live life without giving."



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