Anna Zuritsky Boni joined the Jewish Family and Children’s Service in 2009 after an invitation from a friend.
Boni became part of a “giving circle,” or a group of couples who give $1,800 each toward the nonprofit’s mission of helping families and individuals in need. The money was for a “bridge grant,” meaning it helped a person with a specific financial difficulty, such as paying a couple of months of rent or for a medical procedure.
The Bryn Mawr resident found the mission to be “a very lovely kind of thing,” so she decided to adopt it as her own.
Boni grew from giving circle donor to JFCS board member to board chair. And after more than a decade of helping to lead the nonprofit, she was honored by it on May 10 at a Parkway parking lot on Chestnut Street. (Boni’s family owns the Parkway Corp., which owns that lot as well as other commercial parking areas.)
JFCS held a celebratory dinner for its immediate past board chair. According to a news release, Boni helped make Philadelphia “a more vibrant city” through her service. More than 200 guests attended.
“It’s very humbling,” Boni said.
The Bryn Mawr resident was asked to join JFCS’ board in 2010, just a year after she joined the giving circle. Eventually, organization leaders selected Boni to lead them; she became board chair in September 2019.
“Anna is a remarkable leader,” said Paula Goldstein, JFCS’ president and CEO. “She really takes her world seriously; she has learned to familiarize herself with every aspect of JFCS.”
That familiarity helped during what became a difficult period for both the organization and Boni herself. The new board chair’s mother died in February 2020, and then the pandemic broke out.
Once it did, Boni had to transition the nonprofit’s activities to the digital space. But she completed the pivot successfully and kept JFCS going, according to Goldstein.
She even figured out a way to keep JFCS operating in person.
Before the pandemic, the nonprofit had two vans that it used to transport clients to Bala Cynwyd for social events, grocery shopping and other activities. In 2020, though, the organization started using the vans to set up food and clothing pop-ups in neighborhoods, community centers and churches.
“We were bringing services to the community in need rather than having the communities travel to one of our offices,” Boni said.
JFCS roots its mission in the Jewish values of kehillah, or creating community, b’tzelem elohim, or valuing the inherent dignity of each individual, and tikkun olam, or healing the world.
By adapting on the fly, Boni was doing her best to uphold that mission. She succeeded because she believed in those values, according to Goldstein.
“She really buys into the mission of the organization in a very, very big way,” she said.
During her time as board chair, Boni expanded JFCS’ mission. Her tenure included the crafting of a new strategic plan for the nonprofit and, through that effort, she helped the organization clarify a new priority.
JFCS would always be a Jewish organization serving Jews, but it also would strive to become an organization that serves non-Jews.
Boni described the nonprofit’s long-term goal as taking programs that are “restricted to Jewish clients” and duplicating them for non-Jewish residents. The immediate past board chair started working on that initiative during her term when she made the decision to diversify JFCS’ board. The organization is in the process of bringing on two new board members from outside of the Jewish community.
“We serve in the Philadelphia community; we have programs for Jews and non-Jews,” Boni said. “For us to maintain our relevance, we have to increase our awareness of our programs in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities.”
At the same time, a key pillar of the new strategic plan was reaffirming those Jewish values, according to the past chair. But it’s those very principles that require the organization to serve everybody, not just Jews, she explained.
“How can you repair the world if you’re limiting it to Jewish people?” Boni said.
The celebration of Boni’s tenure will start the organization on its expanded mission. She raised $900,000 for the benefit. It will go toward JFCS’ unrestricted fund, meaning it can be used for anything from the nonprofit’s Holocaust survivor programs to its fertility fund.
Boni’s work with JFCS is going to continue on the nominating and governance committee — the one that selects new board members.
“Putting the plan into action,” she said. JE