Only humans imagine the future. Parents make decisions with the present and future in mind. Oregon Jewish Community Foundation does the same.
The Life & Legacy program, a partnership of OJCF and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, helps local organizations promote bequests and estate gifts to the Jewish community to ensure a Jewish future for generations to come. The legacy plans that donors create is one step in being a good ancestor.
That topic will be the focus of Life & Legacy’s second-year celebration Feb. 17 (see box) when it hosts Rabbi Steven Z. Leder, who has been named “One of America’s 10 Most Influential Rabbis,” by Newsweek magazine.
“Being a good ancestor includes helping our children and grandchildren navigate this often shallow and confused culture which in many ways is so antithetical to Judaism,” Rabbi Leder said in a recent telephone interview. “If we lived in the America of Jefferson and Lincoln, I wouldn’t be as concerned, but we live in the age of the Kardashians. Parents must help children navigate a culture of excess and understand how the overt and covert messages in our culture seduce us into believing the material can be spiritual.”
In one respect humanity is similar to other life on earth, he says, referencing philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s quote: “I don’t know who discovered water but it wasn’t the fish.” Like fish, Rabbi Leder says, “We are so immersed in our own culture and environment that we aren’t aware of it.”
Rabbi Leder emphasizes that children will not develop a meaningful respect for the power of money or the importance of the Jewish community without strong guidance from their parents and grandparents. He urges people to match their true values with ones that they profess.
“Every politician who’s been taken down by a financial scandal professes one set of values and lives others,” he says. “This can happen to philanthropy. People will say to their children, ‘Israel is important, the synagogue is important, Jewish continuity and education are important,’ and then you look at their estate plan, and the money is going to art museums and the university. In Portland, we’re going to be talking about the important concept of alignment.”
Rabbi Leder has authored two books, The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things and More Money Than G-d: Living a Rich Life Without Losing Your Soul. The senior rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles, he received the Louis Rappaport Award for Excellence in Commentary by the American Jewish Press Association and the Kovler Award from the Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C., for his work in African-American/Jewish dialogue.
OJCF Legacy Development & Marketing Manager Gail Mandel has heard much about Rabbi Leder and looks forward to meeting him.
“He talks about being a good ancestor,” she says. “Each of us is an ancestor in the making for the generations still to come. Fundamentally part of being Jewish is to leave the world a stronger and better place. People tend to not talk about what is fundamentally important to them, and he thinks it’s important for people to stop and convey this to subsequent generations. Providing for the future and being a good ancestor ties in well with Life & Legacy, because we are trying to secure our organizations to be strong for generations to come.”
OJCF Executive Director Julie Diamond agrees: “We are so thrilled to welcome Rabbi Steven Leder to Portland for this festive occasion in honor of our legacy supporters. He will bring joy and inspiration to a thought-provoking discussion about what we are leaving to future generations. Rabbi Leder’s dynamic style and important message will make this a night not to be missed.”
For more information about Life & Legacy contact Gail Mandel at firstname.lastname@example.org or Julie Diamond at email@example.com or visit ojcf.org.