Fred Levin and Nancy Livingston - Philanthropy: More than just a word

Posted by: meredith

Fred Levin and Nancy Livingston, members of Rodef Sholom for a full generation, are committed to ensuring our synagogue’s future for the next one.

Newly married in 1982, their connection to Rodef Sholom began with the Jewish education of Fred’s son, Jeff, at age 15 following an anti-Semitic slur in school. Upon his confirmation, Nancy and Fred stayed on as members not only to set an example for Jeff and his sister Vickie, but because of the warmth and inclusiveness they felt from the community and Rabbi Michael Barenbaum. They quickly jumped into leadership roles, first Nancy serving on the Board when Cantor Margules was hired, followed by Fred serving on the board when Rabbi Stacy Friedman was hired. Together they co-chaired our strategic planning process in 1996 with Jack and Jeanette Kadesh.

Nancy and Fred honored Rabbi Friedman--who has been involved in many of their family milestones during her 18-year tenure here—with a generous gift in support of Shulchan Shabbat, our First Friday dinners. These dinners not only bring back fond memories of the potluck congregational dinners of 30 years ago, but also help to create the kind of familial warmth and friendships that originally drew them in. It is their hope that by coming together for Shabbat dinners people will become more connected and more involved.

Both Nancy (from Cleveland) and Fred (a 4th-generation San Franciscan) come from families with impressive traditions of Jewish philanthropy. Their own deep and long-standing commitment to giving back began at Rodef Sholom, and over the years, has extended to supporting a host of institutions devoted to the performing and visual arts, as well as to Jewish social services. Their philosophy of giving prioritizes endeavors that educate, develop, and look toward the future.

As stewards of The Shenson Foundation, Fred and Nancy view their role as both a deep privilege and a responsibility. Fred beams with enthusiasm over the word “philanthropy,” defining it as “doing more than one ever thought one could.” Although they realize their good fortune to be custodians of a foundation, their principles of giving are not exclusive to this realm; in fact, Fred would like to see every congregant embrace this definition of philanthropy, and stretch to give an amount that is “personally significant,” no matter the level.

A former board president, Fred’s objective then—and with Nancy, to this day—is to inspire everyone “to do something…to make your day and week count. To take steps, no matter how small, but to be involved.” Their strongly felt personal imperative is to inspire, to lead through example, and to encourage others to support our congregation, which they consider to be the center of Reform Judaism in Marin. Fred and Nancy are unequivocal in what they feel is our collective responsibility to “step up, be active, contribute our fair share, and give more, because there are people within our community who cannot.” Now that’s a definition of “philanthropy” we can all aspire to!

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