2018-12-05 / Voice at the Shore

LIFE & LEGACY can ensure that we all have a Jewish tomorrow

By SAMANTHA HAMMOND LIFE & LEGACY coordinator Jewish Federation of Atlantic & Cape May Counties

Samantha Hammond and her son Leo. Samantha Hammond and her son Leo. Living at the shore is not easy for young Jews, especially if they are seeking a meaningful connection to their Jewish community and Jews their own age. I grew up in Harrisburg, PA. My father was president of our synagogue, where our family’s name dates back to its establishment in 1893. I was raised with a strong Jewish identity, in a vibrant Jewish community. University and my first employment took me to Philadelphia, where I sought out friends and life experiences within the city’s large Jewish community, one that is both active and diverse. This is where I met my husband Zach.

When I joined Zach in Mays Landing, for the first time in my life, almost all of the people I encountered and befriended were not Jewish. I began to miss the Jewish connection and commonality that I had taken for granted in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, a feeling that intensified when, a couple of years following my move to Mays Landing, I had my first child, Leo.

As a new mother, I realized very quickly that I needed to find young Jews like myself, to get involved in synagogue life, and to establish roots in whatever Jewish community existed in this area. I needed to do this for my own happiness, as well as for my son.

With a little research, I discovered NextGenAC, a Jewish young adults group at Jewish Federation that builds community and develops leadership through engagement, networking, social action, and Jewish philanthropy. By attending events like NextGen Shabbat and Vodka & Latkes, I was introduced to many young Jews I would otherwise not have met. The seeds of my family’s Jewish future were officially planted.

Many of the young people who became my friends have children of their own, and sought out NextGen for the same reasons as I had—to meet others, and celebrate our culture together. When my son turned four months old, I accepted a position with Jewish Federation as LIFE & LEGACY coordinator.

Now, not only have I made friends with Jews my age, but also I have met and worked with Jews of all ages in our local Jewish community.

LIFE & LEGACY™ is a four-year program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that partners with local Jewish Federations/Foundations, assisting them in securing after-lifetime gifts for the benefit of community centers, schools, senior residences, social welfare organizations, synagogues, and any other Jewish organizations important to donors.

Almost 50 volunteers, from 10 local organizations are part of the program. These volunteers are its heart and soul, working to ensure LIFE & LEGACY’s success. These steadfast volunteers commit to engaging in difficult, but necessary conversations with prospective donors about after-lifetime giving, to ensure the future of the organizations they—and donors— care about most.

It is a time-consuming task, one that requires many hours on the part of volunteers, each of whom has enormous passion for the organization they represent, and for the Jewish community as a whole. Each recognizes the very simple fact Jewish life in this area will be far worse in the future without sufficient endowment assets to fund necessary programs and services.

They, and the very generous donors who have already become a part of LIFE & LEGACY locally—and all those who will, are assuring—guaranteeing— the future of Jewish life in this area. They believe, as do those in the other LIFE & LEGACY communities across North America, that, irrespective of where their children live, we must all do whatever we can to build our communal endowment assets.

Our numbers are declining, people are moving away, the young are not returning—and are far less generous than the generations that preceded them. Yet, local LIFE & LEGACY donors realize the assets they help build here through after-lifetime giving are also being built by others in the communities where children from this community live. LIFE & LEGACY donors, wherever they live, are guaranteeing Jewish tomorrows for their communities, by ensuring the vital Jewish organizations they know and love will be around for generations to come, providing programs and services that will sustain and promote Jewish life.

I live in this community. My growing family is here, and we are not alone. There are many young Jews who live here, and who will need the services—and connection—that a JCC provides, that synagogue services and religious schools provide, and that tomorrow’s young and old will need. As a LIFE & LEGACY donor who guarantees an after-lifetime gift to this Jewish community, you are joining together with like-minded donors in 57 other Jewish communities who have promised more than $800-million dollars to assure Jewish tomorrows here and elsewhere.

Gifts to LIFE & LEGACY will exist in perpetuity, meaning they will strengthen the organizations we care most for, not today, but tomorrow. What better gift can you make than one that will last forever? What gift is more important than one that will ensure a child goes to Jewish summer camp, stands on the bimah with pride and confidence on the day of his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and goes off to college one day with a Jewish identity built at the Shore?

We need our Jewish community today, and tomorrow, which means we need you. If you would like to know more about LIFE & LEGACY, please e-mail me at samantha@jewishbytheshore.org, and I will happily connect you with a Legacy Team member at a local organization whose Jewish tomorrow you would like to guarantee. 

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