Couples All Around: Sharing Love, Leadership

Beth Lincow Cole and her husband, Jason, consider their shared participation in Federation as "a gift to their relationship." The couple, parents of 7-year-old Brandon, a student at the Kellman Brown Academy, in Voorhees, N.J., and 5-year-old Sara, did not set out to participate in the Jewish Federations of North America's National Young Leadership Cabinet, a group of men and women, ages 30-45, from communities across the country, who are deeply committed to shaping a bright future for the Jewish people in North America, Israel, and around the world, but both were invited to represent Philadelphia some four years ago, and each felt compelled to participate.

This year, Beth joined Jason and two other local couples at the NYLC annual retreat in Scottsdale, Ariz., for four days of intensive leadership training and development. They were part of a larger contingency of 15 men and women representing Philadelphia.

She maintains that "the energy, inspiration and positive forces that come out of a Cabinet retreat are very difficult to describe."

However, all three couples concur that the multi-sensory experience of listening to motivational speakers, participating in inspirational Jewish study and meeting hundreds of other young professionals from North America who share common Jewish values has strengthened their commitment to both the Jewish community and to one another.

Beth, an attorney, and Jason, a financial planner, hold key leadership roles within Federation. Both serve on the Board of Trustees and Renaissance Group, where Jason is 2011 chair and Beth co-chairs Renaissance Group's Philanthropy. In addition, Jason is a member of the Jewish Federation Real Estate Group's Executive Committee and a vice chair of the board of directors of Federation Early Learning Services.

Like most dual-career couples, they try to strike a balance between career, communal and family responsibilities.

"Both Beth and I are making a concerted effort to schedule as many meetings as possible during daytime hours to avoid taking time away from our families," says Jason.

They state their belief that their positive Cabinet experiences have enhanced their communications with their children.

"We talk about our love for being Jewish, living Jewishly and the importance of Jewish community," says Beth, who found positive philanthropic role models in her own parents, Barbara and Arnold Lincow. Barbara Lincow is a longtime leader of Federation and its Women's Philanthropy affinity group.

"Beth's parents are an inspiration for us as we strive to do what's best for both our community and our family," says Jason, who adds that their children are already demonstrating their personal commitment to tzedakah.

"They set aside a portion of their allowance to help a variety of causes that benefit Jews in need," he explains.

Jason points with pride to his children's enthusiastic participation in a family trip to Pennsauken, N.J., where they delivered food to a Jewish woman and made it possible for her to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with her family.

"I hope that, as the kids get older, they will have a greater appreciation for the needs of our local and global Jewish community," he says.

Like the Coles, Michelle and Jeffrey Barrack view their shared participation in Cabinet programming as a new way to connect as a couple.

"As husband and wife, we lead such different lives during the day — Jeff works as an attorney, and I choose to work at home, raising our 8-year-old daughter, Madison and our nearly 5-year-old son, Jack. Our shared experiences on Cabinet and at retreat strengthen our common foundation of Jewish values and give us a new way to relate to one another," she says. Adds Jeffrey: "Our parents have been great role models for us."

Both Michelle and Jeffrey are actively involved in Jewish communal life. She is a first-year member of the Women's Cabinet and a member of Federation's Women's Philanthropy board. Jeffrey, Men's Cabinet chair and member of Federation's board of trustees, serves on the boards of directors of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, the Jewish Family and Children's Service and the Support Center for Child Advocates. The duo recently returned from Israel, where they co-chaired a NextGen Leadership mission for other couples active in community matters.

They say that their Cabinet involvement has added a new dimension to their family dynamics: "Our relationships with other Cabinet families who share our core values and beliefs have validated our decision to send our daughter to the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School. The more that Jeff and I are involved in Cabinet, the better prepared we are to reinforce the Jewish traditions that Madison learns in school," explains Michelle, adding that "as a family, we practice the commandment to improve the world and serve those in need, by participating in Super Sunday, by volunteering at the Jewish Relief Agency and many other ways."

In turn, by attending a school that places great value on tzedakah and tikkun olam, Madison can recognize her parents' commitment to the community.

"Our daughter tells her friends that her mommy and daddy volunteer, and help people through their work for Federation," says Michelle.

Though she has high praise for the educational and spiritual components of the Cabinet retreat, Michelle says that her most powerful take-away from the experience was the "instant bond" she felt with her fellow participants: "Being in the company of all these amazing people has truly inspired me, and has made me more confident to pursue my goals as a young woman engaged in philanthropy."

Sara Laver, a five-year member of Women's Cabinet, refers to the group as a "Sisterhood of women in Greater Philadelphia."

For the past two years, she has served as the Cabinet's community co-chair, and has brought several new women into the "Sisterhood."

She says that it has been great to share the Cabinet retreat experience with her husband, Adam, who is rotating off Cabinet, after completing his sixth and final year.

"The presentations made by the high-level speakers give us a global view of leadership, and a greater understanding of the challenges faced by Federations in other communities throughout North America and Canada," Sara explains, adding that "in our discussions with fellow retreat participants, we also have learned about fundraising strategies, women's philanthropy and programming initiatives that have been successful, and introduce and implement them in our own communities."

Adam Laver concurs with his wife, and says that he particularly enjoys discussing with Sara the books and other educational materials selected by retreat coordinators. He says that he is motivated by the other couples who continually strive "to meet the challenge of making Jewish philanthropy an even greater priority in their lives."

Both Lavers says that they are grateful to their parents and siblings for making time to care for their daughter, Alana, enabling them to participate in the retreat and the numerous year-round meetings necessitated by their considerable communal involvement. Sara is actively involved with Women's Philanthropy, serving as a member of the group's campaign team, Lion of Judah luncheon and gala committees, and as the immediate past co-chair of WP's leadership development program.

Adam, an attorney, is currently chancellor of the Louis D. Brandeis Law Society, which promotes opportunities for leadership development, social interaction, education and community service. He is a member of the board of trustees of Federation, and a vice chairman of Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia.

The complexities of juggling professional and personal demands with communal involvement remain daunting. However, the three couples interviewed for this story express confidence in their ability to achieve a balance and the importance of their success. As Jeffrey Barrack says: "Most of us are taught to divide our time in two, between work and family; but the life of Torah calls on us to divide our time in three — between work, family and the Jewish community."

All three couples share a common commitment to L'dor V'dor, the belief that one generation is responsible for making our Jewish community a vital and vibrant one for generations to come; and Acharai, which means "follow me," the mandate that Jewish communal leaders be the change they want to see in the world, and shape a compelling vision of Jewish life and communal responsibility.

Next Week: Learn about how Philadelphia's delegation to the National Young Leadership Cabinet has distinguished itself through its exemplary financial and leadership commitments.



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