Last week, I participated in the virtual national Life & Legacy conference. For those who may not be familiar with the Life & Legacy program, it was launched right here in San Diego by Gail Littman (of blessed memory) and Marjory Kaplan, former CEO of the San Diego Jewish Community Foundation, and someone I consider a dear friend and mentor. The purpose of the program is to promote after-lifetime giving to sustain valued organizations and vibrant Jewish communities. During one of the sessions, we were asked to develop our “Why we’ve made a legacy commitment” story. As a professional fundraiser, I’ve engaged with this exercise countless times; however, today, I would like to share something more personal.
I am a mid-40-year-old remarried divorcee who was born into an interfaith marriage. Although I attended a Conservative synagogue in Minneapolis, my parent’s marriage somehow othered me. My mother, feeling her own sense of discomfort, severed ties with the synagogue before I had a chance to get to know other Jewish people beyond my extended family. Perhaps if PJ Library, founded and funded by our Jewish Federation, had existed, then my story would look quite different.
It was not until I was Bat Mitzvah age that I realized there was a void in my life, having missed a significant milestone. In the late 90s, I took a giant leap (one could say headfirst) and made Aliyah in an attempt to gain what I had missed growing up. I thought I would somehow be more Jewish and less other or half-Jewish. I sometimes wonder what my connection to Jewish life would have been like if I’d had the opportunity to go to Jewish camp, thanks in part to a scholarship funded by our Federation.
While I was fortunate to pick up Hebrew quickly and excelled in my studies, I knew I would not be able to make the kind of difference that I wanted to make in Israel. My dreams of becoming the next Golda Meir faded. Thanks to JAFI (Jewish Agency for Israel), Federation’s partner, for helping olim hadashim (new immigrants) make their dreams a reality.
Years later, I met and married a Jewish man (my first husband). After 8 years, it became clear that he was not interested in building a Jewish life, and the marriage dissolved. I did not think I would marry again and certainly did not think a Jewish home was in my future. My now-husband, Matt, had other ideas. Thanks largely to our warm and welcoming Jewish community, and Rabbi Meltzer at Ohr Shalom, Matt converted. I know that his rich Jewish experiences in San Diego contributed to that decision. While we didn’t have an opportunity to participate in Honeymoon Israel, funded by our Federation, Matt made his first trip to Israel right before the pandemic.
Being married to a Jew-by-Choice, we have experienced varying ideas and perceptions. With rising anti-Semitism and the attack in Poway just over 2 years ago, I can assure you that my husband’s decision to wear a Star of David around his neck doesn’t come lightly. Hate is hate, and no one stops to ask how Jewish you are. Our Federation’s investment in security puts my mind at ease that we will work towards being as safe as possible while Anti-Semitism continues to rise.
Now more than ever, I’m clear about why an investment in our Federation is important. I want to ensure our Jewish community is around for the children of today and tomorrow. My annual gift and my legacy commitment are equally important to me.
I am proud to be amongst the generous community members who have made a real and lasting impact on our community. I hope you will consider joining me in this valuable and vital commitment.
Jodie will be recognized as a Woman of Valor in this year’s Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival on June 8, 2021, at 7:30 pm. For more Women of Valor stories and the entire Festival line-up, please visit https://www.sdrep.org/jfest.