Board Chair Reflections: Future ancestors

“Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors.”
-Jonas Salk

Jonas Salk made one of the greatest medical discoveries of the 20th century, if not ever, with his development of the polio vaccine in 1955, virtually eliminating the scourge of this debilitating and potentially deadly disease. Its impact on mankind cannot be overstated. The lives it saved. The children (and their parents) who no longer had to fear infection. The patent on the vaccine yielded Jonas Salk exactly…$0. Dr. Salk refused to patent his discovery, proclaiming, “Could you patent the sun?” A man of impeccable character, Dr. Salk forewent fortunes, remaining unwaveringly loyal to his guiding principle of being a good ancestor, ultimately establishing the Salk Institute in La Jolla to provide a collaborative base for scientific curiosity.

Last weekend, I attended Symphony at Salk, the Salk Institute’s annual gala, in support of the incredible work done by some of the world’s most brilliant scientists (11 Nobel laureates are currently or have been faculty members). While a committed Salkophile (just made that up, but I won’t copyright it – could you copyright the “Sun?”), I was proud to see so many members of the Jewish community in attendance, exemplifying our dedication to Tikkun Olam. As Jews in 21st century America, we are able and welcomed members of the general philanthropic community, something my parents did not fully experience. Contributing to the incredible efforts at the Salk to find tomorrow’s cures is a small personal commitment to helping secure a healthier future for future generations throughout the world – to being a good ancestor.

We are all members of the world community, a strong charitable principle for younger donors. We are also members of sub-communities that are critical to support as well. As Jews, we remain relatively isolated in supporting Jews in need and ensuring a strong community and Israel for the future. We see few non-Jewish donors amongst our rolls and witness growing anti-Semitism in the U.S. and globally, reminding us that we must always be self-reliant – we must care for one another. Ironically, this maxim holds true even as we, as Jews in America, enjoy the greatest liberties, acceptance, and influence in the history of our people, all well-deserved, I may add, considering the vast contributions of Jews in all fields (including several Salk scientists who are also Federation donors). 

As Federation continues its journey of matching donor passions with real impact, our mission to strengthen the Jewish community and help Jews in need does not change. Just as I support the Salk in its journey to find tomorrow’s cures, I am committed to the work of Federation to ensure a thriving Jewish community for my children, so that they can fulfill their duty to help fellow Jews and build on the community foundation we are helping to set today. We are all ancestors of future Jewish communities. In the words of a great Jewish scientist: “Are we being good ancestors?” The Federation and its generous donors are doing all they can to answer affirmatively to one of Dr. Salk’s guiding principles. 


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