Apr 19, 2016

A Passion for Our People: Remarks from Anne Jacobson on Taking the Gavel as Federation Chair

Delivered at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County Annual Meeting, “Ain’t No Mountain Chai Enough,” on April 6, 2016. Click here to watch Anne’s speech.

Enjoy a “music video” parody of “My Girl” featuring lip sync experts Norman Jacobson, Ken Pritzker, Mark Schaum and Rich Steinberg welcoming Anne to her new position.

Matthew C. Levin, Federation President & CEO: It’s now my honor to introduce our new Federation Chair Anne Jacobson. Few people embody the word leader – and philanthropist – more completely than Annie – and Norman.

Anne is a Federation officer and has served as our Financial Resource Development Chair and Chair of Women’s Philanthropy. She has also led the women’s campaign and Lion of Judah Luncheon as well as many other programs.

Anne is also a Foundation Board member as well as Co-chair of the Foundation’s Create a Jewish Legacy program. In 2012, Anne and Norman named the Federation’s Jacobson Jewish Community Foundation. They also received the JFNA Endowment Achievement Award in 2010. And in 2013, they named the Jacobson Family Food Pantry at Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services

Anne is also extensively involved in the local Jewish community through JFS, the Adolph & Rose Levis JCC, Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, B’nai Torah Congregation and its Ner Tamid Society. She is a founding donor of PJ Library in South Palm Beach County.

A former elementary school teacher, Anne, along with Norman, built and ran an institutional pharmaceutical company for 22 years. They have six children, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Please join me in welcoming our new Chair of the Board – Anne Jacobson.

Anne Jacobson: Thank you, Matt, for that introduction, and thanks to all of you here for your warmth and confidence in welcoming me as chair of our Federation’s Board of Directors. A year ago, I accepted the new Chair Designate position with my eyes open, my heart full - and the nerves of steel that some people are surprised to find underlying my genuinely calm and caring demeanor. Tonight I stand before you with pride and excitement as we take the next steps together on our Federation’s journey.

And while you’ve seen me steadily preparing over the past year, my path to leading our Federation began about four decades ago in a little townhouse in the Chicago suburbs… when a cash-strapped young couple at the very edge of losing everything after sinking all they had and a lot more into their business turned to each other and made a promise.

Feeling that deep, gut-wrenching hurt and fear of how the bills would get paid, of what would happen to us and our children, Norman and I promised each other– with the odds far against us – that if things turned around, we would do whatever we could… to ensure that others facing such adversities would have comfort, food, sustenance, shelter and hope for the future knowing they were not alone.

And, as you know, that business did turn around. It became successful beyond our imagination, and our dreams turned in earnest to fulfilling that promise of helping others. But I could never forget the power of that feeling of scarcity and dread. It resonates deep within me when I feel it among others in need.

So you see, for me, what we do here at our Federation is PERSONAL. I see my job first and foremost in terms of what we mean to the people we help, those who still wait, and those who will need us in the future.

My philanthropic journey may have begun in Chicago, but my path to leadership was paved right here in South Palm Beach County more than 20 years ago. I was still a snowbird in the process of making this my community when one day I picked up the phone, called the Federation and made myself a Lion of Judah.

Without actually looking, I had found a true home, and then a calling, in Women’s Philanthropy. I realized how much more I could do for our community and our people if I jumped in with both feet. So, with our women’s support and encouragement, I learned, I grew, and I took that leap into leadership.

My Jewish family and my Jewish heart kept growing as I learned more and more about the people who depend upon us. From down the street to across the globe, I have seen the fragility of Jewish life, and the comfort, hope and joy our work brings to so many in a myriad of ways. Always feeling those needs so deeply, beyond our annual campaign I’ve responded to causes from the waiting list for home assistance for Holocaust survivors, to emergency relief for Israelis under siege, to helping launch P.J. Library, to the need for a full-time rabbi for our college students at Hillel.

Perhaps it was these experiences, or watching two of my grandchildren grow up in this community. But over time I found myself more and more deeply concerned about how our Federation would be able to take care of our people in the years ahead… how would we respond to the needs we might predict as well as others that emerged either suddenly or over time?

Norman and I named the Foundation with an endowment, and our sense of relief and accomplishment has been overwhelming. My commitment to our future remains at the very core of my work at Federation.

Always hands-on, learning and connecting, I return from each personal experience on fire with pride in this amazing Federation and Jewish community – whether laughing with young children while reading to them at a PJ Library event... or tearing up at my first visit to Torah Academy... getting goosebumps watching Rabbi Broide put mezuzot on the doorposts of our new neighbors at Sinai Residences... or with my heart bursting as so many different groups donate and package groceries at our Food Pantry.

Those of us with the courage to care deeply are drawn to this Federation because here the pieces all come together. No other organization has Federation’s capacity to be where and when our Jewish people need us. And no other organization can bring us all together as a community to hear and learn from each other, and accomplish miracles together.

We’ve taken great leaps in the past few years to bring our Jewish community together. As Matt said, our coming together across the usual boundaries of Jewish life is extraordinary. Our Federation, our agencies, our synagogues do not stand alone. We in this room know that we’re in this together.

And now it’s time to get to work. I am deeply grateful for Al’s leadership that has brought us to this bright point on our Federation’s timeline. I know I can never fill Al’s shoes, but I do have my own size and style.

If I had to pick one goal for my tenure, it would be to make others feel the passion I have to ensure that no one is left out – from our very youngest to our very oldest. As I take my place at the head of the Federation table, there will always be more seats for those who want to help build and strengthen this Jewish community.

I ask you to join me in sharing these opportunities with others so they, too, can experience the powerful rewards of connection and the joy of knowing they’ve made a difference.