CFP, SPEAKER AND AUTHOR
The Story of the Pomegranate
Let me tell you what they mean to me.
Pomegranates have a rich symbolism in many cultures and religions. In Egypt, they signify prosperity. In China, fertility. In Judaism, the numerous seeds symbolize fruitfulness. The fruit is said to have 613 seeds, corresponding with the 613 commandments of the Torah.
Let me tell you what they mean to me. To me, pomegranates represent abundance as well as the life lessons and wisdom of my parents.
My parents came from meager backgrounds and faced extraordinary challenges during their life. Although neither had a college education, education was very important to them.
Ada, my mother, dropped out of high school and became a secretary to support her family. They were so poor, they had to leave New York City. They moved to relatives in the Catskill Mountains, where she met my dad on a blind date.
Abraham, my father, grew up on a farm in upstate New York. He was the youngest of six siblings, three who died before he was 10. Abe received a high school education. His older brother was a Pearl Harbor survivor and went to college on the GI bill. Together, they created a food manufacturing company. This business allowed my parents to put their three children through school debt-free.
Abe was a blue-collar worker. He wore green uniforms to work, with a pair of thick socks and steel-toed work boots. Every day, I had the pleasure of unlacing his boots and pulling off his socks, which were moist, sticky and gross. I complained once, and he reminded me that those socks afforded me my upper-middle-class life of abundance.
My mother’s greatest lesson was always be learning. This commitment was best illustrated after my father passed away when Ada became very interested in Judaism. She had not been raised in a religious family and did not raise us to be religious. But in her 60s, she learned Hebrew, had a Bat Mitzvah and read Torah every week in her synagogue. At her passing, the congregation was shocked to learn that she did not have a high school diploma.
Lead by example was the most important wisdom my parents passed down. My personal story of leading by example is bittersweet.
In 2010, my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The average life expectancy is six to eight months. We got seven. My sister, brother and I took turns staying with our mother during this time.
My mother and I had the most beautiful discussions. At one point, she asked me to review her estate plan. After charity, it was to be divided equally between the siblings. However, I noticed that only 5 percent of her estate would go to charity. All of her children were successful, so we didn’t need the money. With our blessing, she increased it to 10 percent.
She was like a kid in a candy store deciding which charitable gifts to increase. Among the more meaningful gifts, she left was $25,000 to her synagogue — the largest gift her congregation had ever received. She created an education fund, which was a joy she could never have imagined would happen in her life. It was beautiful and painful to watch my mother go through this process.
The Joy of Philanthropy
Since then, I have often met and worked with people who waited until the very end to experience the fun and fulfillment of philanthropy. I decided I didn’t want to be one of those people.
When my mother asked me what I was going to do with my inheritance, my answer was simple: I would bring the family to Israel and create a charitable fund. The rest would go toward the education of my daughters, Abby and Alana.
We created our fund with $25,000 at the community foundation. The first time my girls and I sat down to discuss our fund with a staff member, we asked them whether we should invest in the main or socially responsible pool. Our youngest daughter Abby said, “Social, of course. Why would we choose differently?”
Then we started filling out the paperwork to make the first grant. We chose Lincoln High School’s foundation, the girl’s high school. But Alana, our eldest daughter asked, “Why would we give to Lincoln? It’s a wealthy school. Shouldn’t we give to a school in greater need?”
This story shows that as we pass down our legacy, life lessons, values and stories to our children, they teach us. Creating this fund was the most extraordinary gift to our family; it’s one of the best things we ever did.
My goal is for everyone to experience the joy of philanthropy during their life and create a legacy for their family to pass down their legacy, life lessons, values, and stories.
Together, we can live and share lives of abundance, learning, and wisdom. Together, we can change our world through leadership and philanthropy.