Peninsula activist gets JCF Dinkelspiel prize

Laura Lauder takes after the long line of Jewish philanthropists in her family — including her grandfather, who would sign away his Social Security checks to the local Jewish Welfare Fund.

Now a community stalwart herself, Lauder received formal thanks for her activism as a recipient of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation's 1999 Lloyd Dinkelspiel Award.

The JCF presented the award, which goes to an outstanding young leader, at last Thursday's 89th annual meeting at San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El.

"This is an extraordinarily important honor," said Lauder, 38, an Atherton resident. "People are giving much of their personal lives to help build community. It's really deeply appreciated to be honored in that way."

Lauder's accomplishments are impressive. She is a member of six JCF boards and committees in San Francisco and the Peninsula. She led a $6 million campaign for Mid-Peninsula Jewish Day School. And she spearheaded a move to bring the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival to Palo Alto.

The mother of a 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, she has focused much of her organizational acumen on enhancing Jewish schooling.

She helped the preschool at the Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto renovate its rooms and double in size. She also helped put together a Torah-study group for mothers of preschoolers.

"I want to bring in families who wouldn't otherwise have a Jewish experience for their children. Quite often people have negative experiences from their youth. But since children have no past experiences, if they find it joyful and fun, parents might take a new look."

Lauder reflects often on the influence of her extended family, which cuts a formidable reputation in the Jewish philanthropy world. Her father and her grandfather played leading roles in the Ohio Jewish community where she grew up.

Her husband's uncle, Ronald Lauder, is president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations as well heir to the cosmetics empire.

"My family has always encouraged me to be Jewishly involved and they have been major donors in everything I've been involved in," she said.

As it turns out, Lloyd Dinkelspiel, for whom the award was named, was the father of Lauder's next-door neighbor and the first president of the current JCF. "Those are huge footsteps to follow in," she said.

The Dinkelspiel Award, which honors his memory, is bestowed annually on Jewish community leaders age 40 and under for service to the federation and its agencies, including involvement in fund-raising, potential for future leadership and knowledge of the community. The annual award was inaugurated in October 1959.

Other award winners at the annual meeting included: Robert Levison, Robert Sinton Extraordinary Leader of the Year; Toby Rubin, Volunteer of the Year; Esther Nathan, Agency Staff Member of the Year; Suzan Berns, Jewish Community Federation Staff Person of the Year; Rabbi Doug Kahn, Agency Executive of the Year; Jewish Film Festival, Program of the Year.