East Bays federation honors 80-something givers

The director of the Jewish Community Foundation, the endowment arm of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay, wasn’t even born when its long-time donors began giving.

“I find it amazing that I meet with people who are 80 years and older, and they say to me, ‘I’ve been giving to this community for many, many decades — long before you were born,'” said Lisa Tabak, the foundation’s director, who is in her mid-30’s.

After hearing that enough times, she thought, why not honor that group of people? And not just the major donors. Even the individuals who give $36 every year.

“Collectively, over time, that ends up being a lot of money that’s done a lot of good,” Tabak said.

Henrietta and Victor Garfinkle are two of dozens of octogenarians the federation honored June 7 at its 89th annual meeting at Temple Isaiah in Lafayette.

The Garfinkles, both 88, were born in the East Bay. They met each other when they were 15 years old at Temple Sinai’s youth group. They married in 1942.

“We’ve always given to the federation,” Henrietta said.

“Because we’re Jewish,” Victor piped up.

“And it’s important to the whole community,” Henrietta injected.

They have belonged to Temple Sinai for decades, and various other Jewish organizations like ORT, Hadassah, American Jewish Veterans.

They got their daughter a lifetime membership to Hadassah for her 21st birthday.

“It was a joke among her friends, but it was that important to us,” Henrietta said.

Sidney and Ethel Shaffer, of Oakland, have also donated to the federation since before they can remember. Sidney estimates that he began giving around 40 years ago.

He grew up in Boston, but moved to the East Bay 57 years ago. About 20 years ago, Sidney decided to step it a notch, and volunteered for a difficult job.

“I had to get out to people who had made pledges and didn’t get around to paying them,” Sidney recalled.

“It’s a difficult role to ask people for money all time, but it’s a must,” he added.

Sidney and Ethel have also been involved with the Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living and Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland, and Sidney once served as the vice president of the JCC.

“What else was I on, Ethel?” Sidney said, chuckling. “I can’t remember all the things I’ve done. I have to look at my wallet just to remember my name.”

When Sidney isn’t busy with the synagogue, the federation or his six grandchildren, he does the lettering for the Oakland Tribune comic strip “Wee Pals.”

“It keeps me out of the saloons,” he joked.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.