Philanthropy & Family Finance

Taking a breath and hitting the pause button

Tracy Salkowitz
Tracy Salkowitz

I’ve often told people how honored I am to have my job. “You’re kidding,” they say. “Don’t you just talk about death?”

In point of fact, we rarely talk about death. We talk about life! We at the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona are the “pause doctors,” if you will. We sit with our donors and encourage them to tap the pause button, reflect on their lives, their stories, their values and the other things that are important to them.

We give you the space and time to reflect on issues for which we rarely make time. As your stewards, we are nothing less than humbled by being invited in to hear your stories and to work together to develop a legacy plan that reflects your values and priorities.

Two years ago I received a call telling me about Naomi Islin, a woman in rehabilitation after a fall who wanted to leave her estate to benefit Hebrew day school scholarships. Feeling rather awkward, I went to the facility to see if I could be of any assistance. Naomi and I became family that day. She was an extraordinary woman and through our visits, I learned of her life with her beloved Sid and of their lifelong love of each other and Tucson.

She never ceased to amaze me. Every time I visited her, she wanted to know how my daughter Roshann and my husband Rick were, never failing to mention them by name. She was like the town mayor at the Forum, introducing everyone to everyone. She grew physically frailer, but her enthusiasm and spirit did not. I was in awe of her and how she aged so gracefully.

We fought too. I wanted her to spend money on herself. I wanted her to get her hair done and get a cell phone. She refused. She didn’t want to take one penny away from the kids, as she explained it, “I like getting my hair done, but only if someone else is paying for it. It’s not coming out of my pocket.”

For her 99th and 100th birthdays, JCF arranged with Tucson Hebrew Academy for students to visit the Forum to sing and perform for her and the other residents during lunch. With happy tears flowing down her cheeks, Naomi looked at me and said, “It’s good you did this for all of the residents; the non-Jews here really just don’t get the Jews.”

Naomi died last spring at 100. She changed me irrevocably. She taught me about grace and the power of sharing a love-filled heart. When I asked her what message she wanted to give to the community about her wishes, she said, “Be a Jew, don’t forget where we came from and who we are.”

As the days pass, we encourage you to pause with us and to reflect on your life and lessons learned. We would be honored to hear your story and to make sure your values live on into the future.

Tracy Salkowitz is CEO of the Jewish Community Foundation of Southern Arizona. She blogs at More JCF information:, Facebook, Twitter and 577-0388.