Federation's Legacy Circle: A Way of Leaving Something You Care About Better Than How You Found It
Since relocating to Great Barrington nearly 8 years ago, Larry Frankel and Elisa Schindler Frankel have done all that they can to answer for themselves our sage Hillel’s provocative question: “If not now, when?”
Seemingly as soon as they introduced themselves to our community, the Frankels were entwined in the life of the Jewish Berkshires not only as leaders but also as cheerleaders for all we are trying to accomplish together. Larry and Elisa’s enthusiasm has lifted folks in so many ways and here a just a few.
Together for Federation, the Frankels served as chairs for Super Sunday, Annual Campaign, and our Major Donor Celebration, as well as serving on our board and on various committees.
Elisa is the past president of Federation, taking over the role unexpectedly and providing vision and leadership as we expanded our programming, outreach to new residents, annual campaign goals, and workshop training that addresses antisemitism in local schools. Drawing on her past experience working in senior development positions with Jewish National Fund and other philanthropic organizations, she served capably during challenges like the pandemic, the much-needed fundraising for Jews affected by the war in Ukraine, and the uptick in Jew hate that necessitated upgrades in security at our institutions.
Larry served as president of Hevreh of Southern Berkshire and as a driving force in its Creative Bet Midrash, which started as an outlet for self-expression and connection for artists, writers, musicians, and art lovers during the pandemic. Larry is an accomplished art photographer and his work has been on view at local galleries and on the cover of this newspaper.
Larry and Elisa acknowledge that their willingness to serve grows from the ways they were brought up and the ways of giving back to the community modeled by their family members. And it was by looking back that the Frankels decided to make a meaningful commitment to the Legacy Circle of Jewish Federation of the Berkshires.
Says Elisa: “When I joined the board, I had coincidentally just been googling my grandparents in New Hampshire. I found out that they had left a legacy gift we didn’t know about to their Federation, which has grown in the many years since they’ve been gone yet still appears in the New Hampshire chapter’s annual report. My grandparents, who were both lawyers, did that for the next generation in New Hampshire from their very small Jewish enclave in Manchester, where my mother and her sisters were born and raised. It was very inspiring to me that back then they felt an affinity for the Jewish Federation and saw the importance of leaving a legacy gift.”
“My maternal grandfather and all my grandparents were very philanthropic,” remembers Larry, “and my maternal grandfather started Camp Sussex in New Jersey. It was for underprivileged inner-city kids to spend two weeks, fully paid for, in the country. That inspired me. What I learned about legacy giving from that was that legacy is not about the present or the past, but it's about using funds to advance and preserve future ethical and philanthropic endeavors. Legacy does not necessarily mean something financial. Elisa and I believe it's about leaving something you care about better than how you found it. A legacy gift can be a donation flexible enough to be adapted to the future needs of the community and generations to come. If you think about it, that vision of the future and the necessity of acting upon it in the present are based upon Jewish ethical thinking.”
The Frankels say that legacy giving was not much on their radar until recently and suggested discussing the matter with one’s financial advisors or lawyers and with Federation’s executive director, Dara Kaufman. There are many ways to structure a legacy gift during the estate planning process, as well as choices about how to direct the funds that will be used by Federation in the future.
As active as the Frankels have been, it seems like their enthusiasm keeps growing.
“From the beginning, when we came to our first major donors event,” says Elisa, “we were so impressed by what we learned about what this small, community-minded Federation does. If there wasn't a Federation, what would happen? How would religious schools be funded? How would the kids go to Jewish summer camp? What kind of year-round programming would there be for all ages, from the littlest ones at PJ Library all the way up to the senior citizens? Basically, this Federation provides everything this community needs – emergency assistance, food cards, meals-on-wheel programs, and first-rate programming with Jewish content.”
Elisa also cites Federation’s role as an advocate for Israel during this trying time for the Jewish state and Jews around the world. She lost a cousin in the massacre at the Re’im Music Festival and says, “The way the vigil in Pittsfield for the victims and for Israel brought people together gave everyone a sense of community. It helped us start the healing process and bonding together. For the local community members whose immediate family was attacked, it was cathartic – they told me they felt an envelope of love, a big community hug. As for me, it was the first time I cried.”
“It dissipated the anger,” Larry adds, “and allowed me to grieve and cry.”
Summing up, Larry says: “People choose to give their money to many different organizations. In the Berkshires, for instance, a lot of people contribute to various cultural types of nonprofits. In reality, if any of these left the community, it wouldn't really impact my life. If the Boston Symphony Orchestra decided to go to Springfield, I'd have to make a decision whether or not I want to drive 45 minutes. But if Federation leaves the community, that's when I leave the community. Federation has a direct impact on my life.”
Photo by Julia Kaplan