Husband-wife team takes helm of JCFs campaign

His wife, Barbara, 43, does her own running around, volunteering her time and attacking a seemingly endless daily to-do list.

"We don't have a lot of down time," says Barbara Farber. "At this point in our lives, I'm not quite sure what down time is."

The couple has ensured that they'll have even less of it, at least through June. By accepting the imposing, yearlong task as the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's annual campaign co-chairs, they've drastically reduced any leisure time they would have had.

"Busy people can do this kind of job," said Harold Zlot, JCF board president and past annual campaign chair, who encouraged the Farbers to take the volunteer position. "They are very energetic. They're terrific young leaders. They're very outgoing and communicative."

Barbara Farber, who has been on the JCF board for the last five years and chaired its Women's Alliance campaign the last two years, jokes, "If we're speaking to each other at the end of the campaign year, that would be an accomplishment."

The federation has never had a husband-and-wife team as co-chairs for the annual fund-raising drive, which began July 1 and ends June 30.

The couple and other volunteers will spend the campaign year soliciting funds to surpass last year's total of $20.5 million (an all-time high), which was raised under previous chair Carol Saal. Still, the pair doesn't intend to lose sight of how federation programs have touched their lives and the lives of donors and volunteers.

"While we're concerned with raising money for people we might never meet in San Francisco and around the world who are dealing with emergencies," Barbara Farber says, "I can't forget how my kids went to Jewish Community Center preschool or how my daughter is getting involved in Hillel.

"A lot of people who give to the federation may not need the federation's help," she adds, "but you might have a grandchild going to Camp Tawonga or a child who swims at the JCC or a parent in the Jewish Home [for the Aged]. The federation contributes to all these things."

Because they had been heavily involved in federation activities throughout their marriage, wherever they've lived, the decision to co-chair the JCFcampaign seemed like a natural step.

"They do share that mutual interest," Zlot says. "They are both so committed to the federation's mission and vision."

The Farbers, who have lived in the Bay Area for five years, have worked in tandem for a long time on behalf of Jewish causes, particularly those funded under the umbrella of Jewish federations.

"As Jews, we should be trying to make the world a better place," says Jeff Farber. "Barbara and I have been able to share that Jewish value. It's like it's my calling. If I, as a Jew, don't do it, who will?"

Jeff Farber, who grew up in Seattle, has lived in several cities during his 25 years with Bank of America, including Chicago, Seattle, and Portland, Ore. Wherever they resided, the Farbers immediately immersed themselves in the Jewish community. In San Francisco, Jeff has been on the JCF's finance and real estate development committee for five years, two as chair.

"We could have very easily gone into communities and written checks, looking at each new city as a career move and let it go at that," Jeff Farber says. "Instead, what we've tried to do is contribute in some way, kind of roll up our sleeves, get involved and lead by example."

The Farbers were catalyzed into stepping up their involvement after attending a three-day young Jewish leadership conference in Washington, D.C., in the mid-'80s.

Barbara Farber was inspired by the experience of being with 2,500 Jewish peers, listening to compelling speakers.

Growing up in Tacoma, Wash., she "always enjoyed being part of the organized Jewish community. When you live in a smaller Jewish community, it's the only connection you have."

Even with all their volunteer activities, the Farbers still put family first. On weekends, the couple is likely to be spotted watching the games of 15-year-old son, Josh, who plays on three soccer teams.

The Farbers' Jewish community connections extend beyond U.S. borders. Following the D.C. conference, they started taking trips to Israel, not just as tourists.

One year, they took their two children — daughter Michelle is now a freshman at the University of Colorado, Boulder — on a United Jewish Appeal family mission. Part of the experience was to greet Russian emigres on the tarmac as they arrived on Israeli soil.

That same trip, the family met with recent Ethiopian emigres on a kibbutz. "My kids needed to see where their money and their time goes. They've been giving for years. It's their tzedakah," she says.

Aside from the fund-raising aspirations, the Farbers have other goals for the campaign. "Our goal is to involve more people and increase the leadership base," says Barbara Farber. "New blood rejuvenates."

Her husband agrees. "We have to be relentless in our enthusiasm for the cause and create enough excitement that others will join us."