Local | Opinion

Remembering former JFCS chair for his passion, kindness

The late Fred Fruchthendler, left, with Jewish Family & Children’s Services’ President and CEO Carlos Hernández at the 206 JFCS Celebration of Caring event on April 10, 2016, which marked JFCS’ 75th anniversary. (Photo courtesy Jewish Family & Children's Services)

I remember when I first met Fred Fruchthendler. It was my first interview with the board of Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona for the position of president and CEO. After an hour or so of many tough and thoughtful questions, a voice that had not yet spoken came suddenly from the corner of the room. This voice belonged to Fred, and from his questions and comments, I knew that this was someone who was perhaps the most passionate of anyone that I had met thus far about JFCS.

Fred spoke of the rich history of the organization, and it was clear to me that he had a vision of strengthening JFCS. He described the organization’s amazing accomplishments over a period of more than 70 years, and I knew right away that he would do anything within his means to see it last forever.

Although Fred had a deep commitment to the Jewish community, he understood that JFCS was important to every resident of Tucson. As such, he adamantly upheld the ideal that for JFCS to thrive and be sustainable, it requires board members and staff with the right skills, knowledge, and experience who can also uphold the organization’s Jewish values and traditions. I strive to uphold Fred’s ideals every day.

In addition to serving as chair of JFCS’s board, Fred also impacted the Tucson community in many other ways. Whether supporting Handmaker, B’nai B’rith, the Boys & Girls Clubs, the North Fourth Avenue Merchants Association, the America-Israel Friendship League, the Carondelet Foundation, or personally helping his clients through Fruchthendler Insurance Company, which his father founded, Fred truly cared about his hometown.

Yet Fred was not concerned about his own public legacy. He made it clear to everyone that JFCS was bigger than one person, and though he would always support the agency, he never would accept public recognition for his leadership and giving. I recall multiple occasions where Fred was nominated for some award in recognition of his support of JFCS or something else in the community only to receive a personal phone call from him to tell me he passionately declined the nomination.

Fred was the first chair I worked under at JFCS, but he was not an ordinary leader. He was a mentor and close friend. This man showed me a kindness and a tenderness that I did not expect, but which I found myself welcoming with open arms. I do not hesitate to say that I have grown immensely as a result of my knowing Fred.

In his 67 years, Fred gave to Tucson as much as it is possible for one person to give. We will all miss him dearly.

Fred Fruchthendler died June 19, 2019. As a final tribute to Fred and his relationship to the organization, his family has requested that contributions in his memory be made to Jewish Family & Children’s Services at www.jfcstucson.org or 795-0300, ext. 2257.

Carlos A. Hernádez, MA, LCSW, CPHQ, is president and CEO of Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona.