JFCSEast Bay honors two longtime supporters

Add up the years Monica Salusky and Rich Edwards have devoted to Jewish Family and Children’s Services of the East Bay, and you’d be pushing four decades.

Salusky and Edwards are this year’s honorees at JFCS’s annual fundraiser, the Art of Living, on Sunday, Sept. 13, at the Oakland Museum. Bay Area humorist Josh Kornbluth will provide the evening’s entertainment, but Salusky and Edwards are the main event for fans of the agency.

Rich Edwards

“Their commitment is longstanding,” says JFCS Executive Director Avi Rose. “Both are terrific volunteers, extremely committed. They do it because they are so passionate about the work. They don’t necessarily expect a lot of credit, which is why we’re glad to honor them and give them the visibility they deserve.”

Salusky, 60, sat on the JFCS board for 26 years. The Orinda attorney was initially recruited to get involved after taking a casual tour of the agency back when she was a young mother. Before long, she was a JFCS board member.

“I was impressed with its central mission of tzedakah,” Salusky recalls, “helping people of all races and religions. I liked the idea that they were doing something very concrete.”

JFCS programs that impressed her over the years included one to help kids who witnessed traumatic incidents such as violent street crime; another that helped elderly immigrant women adjust to life in America; and one that rescued young Jews who had fallen prey to cults.

Rose notes that Salusky has been instrumental in the area of older adult services, from day care to meals at home. Even though she no longer sits on the JFCS board, she still serves as an adviser on those issues.

Rich Edwards, 61, has been a board member for several years. A former naval officer and investment banker, the Oakland resident retired 12 years ago to devote more time to family and volunteerism. He’d served on the board of the old Oakland Piedmont Jewish Community Center, the Oakland Museum and various committees at Oakland’s Temple Sinai.

But after his parents died, Edwards became more interested in senior care. That led him to JFCS.

“I could see the hands-on work of the agency,” Edwards recalls. “When I retired, I felt we had been very fortunate. We had this obligation to share some of that success with the community.”

As chair of JFCS’ Kavod Society (for high-level donors), one of Edwards’ favorite jobs as a JFCS board member is fundraising. Edwards says he has no problem sitting down with someone and asking them to make a sizeable donation.

Monica Salusky

“If you’re passionate about the organization,” he says, “and put into words why it’s near and dear to you, you can convince them to get excited about doing something good for the community.”

Edwards has been a secret weapon for the agency in another, unexpected way. He happens to be an ace photographer, having shot images for various JFCS brochures and other printed materials.

Besides that, says Rose, Edwards is a mensch. “He’s a great ambassador in the community,” Rose says, “always willing to talk about who we are and what we do with energy and enthusiasm. He’s helped us enlarge our circle of supporters. He’s an all-around terrific part of our team.”

For two behind-the-scenes community activists like Salusky and Edwards, how does it feel to step into the limelight, even if it’s for a fundraiser?

“It’s very sweet,” says Salusky. “I’m not comfortable being honored. It’s not my personality. But the needs are greater now than ever, with so many people affected by this recession.”

Adds Edwards, “It’s nice to have the recognition. Hopefully people will now consider getting involved with JFCS from a volunteer as well as philanthropic standpoint.”

The Art of Living takes place 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13, at the Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St. Information: (510) 704-7475. To receive an invitation, e-mail Holly Taines White at [email protected]

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.