How did you first hear about us?
We think our first contact was with Lois Roisman, who was the Executive Director of JFSJ (Jewish Funds for Justice) in D.C. We liked the concept of what JFSJ was doing.
You have been a donor to us since the 1980s. What made you interested in getting involved with and supporting us?
We were concerned about what was happening in our country and liked the idea of supporting a group that was doing grassroots social action to deal with the many problems here at home.
You are very generous donors to a variety of causes, via personal gifts and through the Common Counsel Foundation. Why is it important to you to give? Does Judaism inform your desire to do so?
The Jewish establishment in recent years has become more conservative, and is so involved in Israel. We Jews have an identity problem. We need to focus more on our responsibilities as Americans to deal with the problems confronting our society.
What aspect of our work most interests you?
Social justice is important to us. We believe changes take time and cannot always be measured right away. Who would have believed 50 years ago that a black person could be elected President? In particular, we are concerned about education and immigration. People should have an avenue to become legal citizens. We need immigrants, especially in California. This issue is close to home because both of our parents were immigrants to this country.
What do you think about the merger of JFSJ with PJA?
JFSJ was able to expand on the West Coast, where PJA had a strong presence, and PJA was able to benefit from JFSJ’s networks and presence on the East Coast. PJA has been able to attract so many young people in a relatively short time and JFSJ has a history of running innovative and successful programs. All in all, this merger seems to be a good strategic move.
What concerns you most about the world we live in today?
We are very concerned about the gap between the rich and the poor. The middle class is getting squeezed out in this country. We have lost the auto industry; we have lost the power of unions. Every day we read about workers having to concede a portion of their salary, their healthcare, their retirement. It is galling to see CEOs earning so much and the disparity between their salaries and those of their employees. What skills could CEOs possibly have that warrant such enormous salaries, bonuses and stock options? Meanwhile, banks are foreclosing on people’s homes which is destroying neighborhoods and tearing at the fabric of society. I think we as a society will pay for this down the line in increased crime and alienation. Too many resources are being spent on defense instead of education.
What would you say to motivate others to give of their time and resources to Jewish social justice causes?
It is in our own self interest. Jews as immigrants have been enormously successful in this country and we have an obligation to help others.
Victor, born in the Bronx, and Lorraine, from San Francisco, met when she was working on her Masters in Social Work at Columbia University. After their marriage, they moved to San Francisco. Victor established a successful CPA practice and Lorraine worked for the San Francisco Unified School District as a social worker. Lorraine was active on the board of Coleman Advocates, which works to promote and protect vital resources for children, including affordable housing and public education. Victor cofounded Accountants for the Public Interest, a group that does pro-bono CPA work for nonprofits. Victor was an active member of the Human Rights Commission, which got the couple interested in affordable housing issues. They later partnered with Mercy Housing to provide sites for low-income housing for families and seniors. After retirement, Victor began focusing his time on managing their real estate and on his hobby, book-binding. Lorraine is active in OWL, the Older Women’s League, which advocates on issues affecting mid-life and older women, including protection of Medicare and Social Security.