JCF ‘As the Tree Grows’ lunch honors Zuckermans, grantees

”]”]The Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona presented Mel and Enid Zuckerman with more than a plaque to thank them for their lifelong philanthropy at JCF’s Jan. 18 “As The Tree Grows” luncheon.

“We made a decision to make important contributions, financial contributions, in your name,” Executive Director Carol Karsch told the Zuckermans.

The longtime Tucsonans are founders of Canyon Ranch. They were among the first to sign the Foundation’s Endowment Book of Life, then establish funds that have supported many causes throughout the community for decades.

“The recipients here today have the ability to do their programs because of that first fund. So thank you,” Karsch said.

(L-R): Jewish Community Foundation President Danny Gasch, Executive Director Carol Karsch, and honorees Enid and Mel Zuckerman

The Foundation selected two funds to honor the Zuckerman family and support recovery from two recent tragedies that “weigh on our hearts,” Karsch said.

The Foundation will add to the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund that honors the youngest victim of the Jan. 8 shootings in Tucson and ensures a legacy for children in this community.

“The second contribution bearing your name will go to the Yemin Orde youth village located in northern Israel which provides housing and education for more than 500 at-risk youngsters from 20 different countries. It was devastated by last month’s Carmel forest fire,” Karsch said.

About 330 people attended the event at the Tucson Jewish Community Center that also celebrated the Foundation’s 2008 – 2010 grant recipients. These 19 organizations provide a wide range of services throughout Tucson and in Israel.

Speakers spotlighted three of those projects: The PJ Library provides Jewish literature, music and pajama parties for local children ages 6 months to 7 years. The BICAS program provides tools and training for teens and adults to maintain and safely use bicycles as a viable form of transportation. The Yad LaKashish project in Jerusalem provides hot lunches and snacks for more than 300 disabled artisans.

Karsch recalled the impact the Zuckermans had on the launch of the Foundation’s Endowment Book of Life legacy planning process 20 years ago. They arrived at JCF with longtime friends Saul and Sue Tobin. “You signed and actually it was very sentimental,” she said.

The next morning, an exuberant Saul Tobin called to report that Mel Zuckerman hadn’t left the parking lot before saying, “I don’t want to wait until I die to do this. I want to do it now.”

Karsch added, “He was excited. We were excited.” Six months later the Zuckermans had established the first of many funds.

The early support of Louis and Ruthann Pozez, the Tobins, the Zuckermans and others “really launched us for the next couple of decades of very successful legacy planning that is coming to fruition today and every day,” Karsch said. This donor-centered process that begins with a promise to make a legacy plan was “just the right idea at the right time. It’s all across North America now.”

The four-generation Zuckerman family supports many health-focused projects throughout the community, ranging from a playscape at the Tucson Hebrew Academy to the nationally accredited Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona.

Mel Zuckerman said, “A lot of what we’ve done over the last 30 years had its roots in my relationship with Saul Tobin. He was a very special man and my best friend … It was Saul who talked me into moving to Anshei Israel, got me involved in Jewish affairs … fundraising … and philanthropy, especially with the university and dealing with health.

“As we all move through this chaotic life, the most meaningful thing in life besides our family is doing for those less fortunate than ourselves and making a difference in as many lives as possible.”

Donna Kreutz is the owner of Donna Kreutz Public Relations.