For them, it is like breathing – it has provided a community, friendship and a sense of richness. They view it as the center of Jewish life, for as Frank says, “to have a Jewish community, you have to have a synagogue.” This is why Lee and Frank choose to make a planned gift for the future of Rodef Sholom.
The deep connection that Frank and Lee feel towards Rodef Sholom may be genetic, or it may be learned; they each grew up with their synagogues holding foundational roles in the lives of their families.
Frank’s father, born in Baghdad, and a world traveler, met Frank’s mother following services one Friday night in Frankfurt when the president of the synagogue invited Frank’s father, who was traveling on business from The Dutch East Indies, to his home for Shabbat dinner. That Shabbat dinner ultimately led to marriage. After stints in New York and Los Angeles, Frank’s parents settled in San Francisco, where Frank was born. Frank’s father founded the Sephardic synagogue in San Francisco, Magen David. He was a learned, observant Jew, but understood that society changes and that people change along with society. When twelve year old Frank and his brothers wanted to attend Conservative Beth Israel, the family obliged. Rabbi Burstein, aware of Frank’s father’s scholarly Hebrew background, invited him to sit on the Bima – a tradition that lasted every Shabbat for his entire lifetime. Frank’s father served eight years as president of Beth Israel and oversaw the merger of Beth Israel and Temple Judea.
Lee’s family fled Nazi Germany in 1936 and arrived in San Francisco. Lee's mother's parents joined them over time, but Lee’s father lost his parents and sister in the Holocaust. Lee’s family joined Temple Emanu-El. Following the war, differing with Rabbi Irving Reichert’s anti-Zionist stance Lee’s family, along with many others, left Temple Emanu-El and joined Sherith Israel. When the dynamic, pro-Zionist rabbi, Alvin Fine, took over Emanu-El’s pulpit, Lee’s family returned and remained active ever since.
Frank and Lee moved to Marin County from San Francisco in 1959. They joined Rodef Sholom in 1966 and immediately became active participants. Lee edited the Voice for many years and Frank was involved in the leadership of Rodef Sholom and became president in 1975. At that time, Rodef was $40,000 “in the red,” and had 320 families as members. During Frank’s two year tenure as President, the congregation erased its deficit, welcomed Rabbi Barenbaum as its new rabbi, re-structured its organization and grew in size to 800 families.
Until he became president and began to sit on the Bima at Friday night services, Frank and Lee and their children, Mark, Michael and Suzanne, had Shabbat dinner with their parents every Friday night – one Shabbat with Lee’s parents and the next with Frank’s parents. After Frank’s term as president ended, the Shabbat dinner ritual continued. It continues to this day with Frank and Lee joining Lee’s 102 year old mother for Shabbat dinner almost every Friday night.
When Frank’s presidency ended, Lee went on the Board and served several years on the Executive Committee. She also helped co-Chair numerous temple events including the synagogue’s 40th and 50th anniversary parties and Rabbi Barenbaum’s retirement party.
Frank became involved with the congregation’s finances, and worked closely with other leaders in the congregation, including former president Fred Kirschner, on the governance arrangement between Rodef Sholom, Brandeis Hillel and the JCC as these three institutions developed a working partnership, which is today our Marin Campus.
All three institutions took on mortgage obligations when the Campus was built. Some years later, Frank put together a committee that oversaw the retirement of the congregation’s debit. Then Frank formed another committee to erase the debt of Brandeis Hillel and the JCC. A portion of this was raised from the community, and the balance came from an “angel” to whom Frank feels we all owe a debt of gratitude.
During his years of leadership at Rodef Sholom, Frank had a business and young children. Yet he never viewed his role at the synagogue as time consuming. He had seen his father involved in this way and this is how he spent his time as well. It is just what one did.
It has been a number of years since Frank and Lee Battat have held leadership positions at Rodef Sholom. Today when they walk into the congregation, there are times when they do not know anyone in the completely full sanctuary. Frank said, “I am happy to walk in and not know anyone. The future of the congregation is no longer with my generation; it belongs now to another generation.”
And in keeping with that idea, Frank and Lee have made gifts to Rodef Sholom for many years. Rodef Sholom has always been their primary focus. They support other organizations too because they are part of a broad Jewish community and secular community as well, but for them the synagogue comes first. Frank and Lee have made a commitment to Rodef Sholom in their estate plan, which will be paid on their deaths. “As we leave life, we want to do something in keeping with what we did our entire lives,” commented Frank. “We want to make sure that Rodef Sholom exists for the next generation.”
For Lee and Frank, they desire to provide first for their children and grandchildren. But at the same time, in their own words, they “want to take care of the community that is important to us. Rodef Sholom validates the basic ethical standard we were raised with.”
As a final lesson, Lee and Frank, whose children are involved in numerous community endeavors that are meaningful to each of them, stated “we never told our children to do anything in the community – we always just led by example.”
If you are considering a planned gift for Rodef Sholom, please contact Jane Friedman, development director, at 415-479-3441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to know more about planned giving, we will be presenting a seminar on Estate and Charitable Gift Planning with a special presentation on Ethical Considerations for Final Arrangements planning led by Rabbi Stacy Friedman on Sunday, February 21, 2010, 9:30–11:00 am. Please contact Jane for more information.