When most mothers are asked by their adult children for money, their initial feeling is dread, immediately followed by the need to determine where they went wrong. In Lois Schwartz's case, when her adult son, Robert, asked her for $150,000, she couldn't have been prouder.
Robert, along with his philanthropic and life partner, Judith Creed, founded Federation's newly launched Philadelphia Initiative, which allows participants to pursue their philanthropic passions through support of initiatives and programs that address Federation's priorities.
Each donor, known as an "ambassador," is committed to donating $150,000 over three years, while also serving as a community leader and role model; the goal is to enlist 60 new ambassadors over three years. Robert invited his mother to be an ambassador, and she gladly accepted.
"I was delighted that Robert asked me to join the Philadelphia Initiative," said Lois, adding, "Federation is very important and it does wonderful work. To be a part of this program is an honor."
Lois is passionate about supporting Israel and helping at-risk Jewish people in Greater Philadelphia. She also shares her son's passion for helping children. She became an ambassador in the hopes that "people will have a better life" as a result of her philanthropy.
Lois feels that the Philadelphia Initiative's focus on developing community leaders is also key to the impact it will have on the Jewish community. "Without leaders, our community would just flounder," said Lois.
"It's fine to give money," she continued, "but it's better to give of yourself as well. The more Jewish leaders we have, the brighter our community's future will be."
Lois Schwartz first became involved in Federation through her late husband, Bernie. Bernie Schwartz, who passed away a year ago, had been a longtime Federation donor, who attended the first Ambassador's Dinner hosted by the late philanthropist Walter Annenberg. The elder Schwartz also took his son, Robert, to the dinner, which marked the young man's entrée into the Federation world. This milestone event more than 30 years ago served as an inspiration for the creation of the Philadelphia Initiative.
According to Lois Schwartz, both Judaism and Israel were important in the family household while Robert and his sister, Nanci Gilberg, were growing up. Lois Schwartz and her husband took three trips to Israel, the first with just the two of them more than 50 years ago. The second time they took their children, and on their third journey they celebrated their grandsons' B'nai Mitzvot.
Gilberg is also very involved in Jewish philanthropy and is especially committed to the Golden Slipper Club and Charities. As a result of her involvement with Golden Slipper, Gilberg educates her mother about the needs in the Jewish community. "I'm so proud of both Nanci's and Robert's community involvement," said Lois.
In celebration of her current role as the matriarch of a family committed to Jewish causes, Lois Schwartz, at age 83, is now investing in the Jewish community for the first time in her own name.
She is grateful to the Philadelphia Initiative for enabling her to mark this milestone in such a meaningful manner. "It makes me very proud to be able to be a part of this," said Lois. "It's a big commitment, but because of my husband, I'm able to do it."
Lois explained why she feels it is so important to support the Jewish community through Federation.
"As a Jewish people, we are responsible for one another. If we don't take care of ourselves, who's going to do it for us? Every Jewish person who can afford to should support our Jewish community."