2018-06-06 / Voice at the Shore

It’s our turn to create a Jewish future for generations to come


We live in a remarkable Jewish community here at the shore. The fact that a Jewish community as small as ours has the kind of infrastructure that we have—with not just synagogues but also Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Service, JCC, Jewish Older Adult Services, Seashore Gardens, Avoda, several Hadassah chapters, and more—is a remarkable blessing that has enabled the Jewish people here to thrive for generations.

These organizations provide the foundation for a rich Jewish life, as well as a support system and an outlet to express our Jewish values and bring meaning to our lives.

This network of Jewish organizations didn’t appear here by chance. It is a testament to the generations that came before us—generations of Jewish people in our community who labored diligently in the vineyard to make things grow. It is their legacy, which they lovingly bequeathed to all of us, and we are all better for it.

Each of us creates our own legacy. Over the past 30 years, I have created mine at Beth Israel, which is now part of my soul.

When I moved here in 1988 to become rabbi of Beth Israel, I thought I would stay here for 5-6 years and then move on to another rabbinical position. I was wrong. I stayed because I found this to be a wonderful place to live, with people who were engaging and nurturing.

Beth Israel and I ultimately made commitments to one another that allowed me to remain in this community, establish roots here, and build something that was visionary and future-oriented. I sent roots deep into the community and grew personally, professionally and communally. Rather than just being a rabbi who serviced this community, I became an integral part of it.

As Beth Israel’s rabbi, I have been blessed to be part of the life-cycle events of many community members. I have officiated at the weddings of young adults who I have known since they were born, and at the funerals of their grandparents, who were also my congregants. I have rejoiced with families at their baby namings and watched those children grow up.

Every day, I have created my legacy by meaningfully touching the lives of others. We all do this in our own way.

We can also continue to touch the lives of others after we are gone. We can do this by making a legacy gift to organizations that we would like to perpetuate for future generations.

My wife Susan and I recently made legacy gifts to several local Jewish organizations. These of course included Beth Israel, as well as the Board of Jewish Education, which Susan leads and which we also feel passionately about. We have made a commitment to give a portion of our assets to these and other Jewish organizations through the LIFE & LEGACY program. This program assures that across North America, Jewish communities like ours will continue to thrive because they are endowed by people like us, who care about perpetuating a vibrant Jewish life for future generations after we’re gone.

This means that a hundred years from now, I will still be able to influence Beth Israel through the bequest I’ve left them.

Like everyone else, Susan and I think it’s very important to leave something for our children. Nevertheless, in making our legacy gift we effectively decided that not everything that we have would go to them. The lion’s share will of course be left to our children, but our bequests, together with those of others, will have an enormous effect on our future Jewish community.

Additionally, our decision to leave money to the community organizations that perpetuate our dearest values is an important lesson for our children. It teaches them that not everything we’ve reaped is ours—or theirs— to keep. Some of it belongs to G-d and the community. Wherever my children end up living their lives, we hope that people there will have likewise left legacy gifts—perhaps through a LIFE & LEGACY program like the one in our community—to ensure the needs of their Jewish communities.

Susan and I have been fortunate to be part of a generation of Americans blessed with unparalleled prosperity. Future generations of Jewish people may not be as prosperous as ours has been. We are now seeing perhaps the first generation of Americans—including American

Jews—who are downwardly mobile. Many struggle to make ends meet. It’s not certain that future generations will be able to support local Jewish organizations in the way that past generations did.

At the same time that is true, we are also experiencing the largest transfer of Jewish wealth in history. That is why legacy giving is so important right now. The prosperity of the past can be used to endow the future. Our prosperity can continue to bear fruit for future generations through the endowments we leave.

At Beth Israel, we don’t turn anyone away for financial limitations. We ask people to contribute, but people have a home here regardless of what they can afford to give. The same is true for many local Jewish organizations. I want this to still be true in the future—which is why I have made a legacy gift. I want future generations to enjoy the fruits from the vineyard that my generation has diligently tended, grown, and lovingly bequeathed to them. Through my legacy gift, my Jewish values will bear fruit for generations to come.  _________________________

Rabbi David Weis is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel.

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