Marcy Bacine recalls being "totally floored" when Maddy Malis, president and CEO of Federation Early Learning Services, asked her and her husband, Dan, to serve as honorees at the agency's 18th annual "Love Our Kids Gala" on Tuesday, June 5.
"It is very fitting that Marcy and Dan are this year's honorees for our gala," stated Malis, Marcy's friend and former supervisor. "They both love children, both love the Jewish community and both love to help those who need it most. In the 22 years I have known them, I have found that no challenge is too great and no task too small. They are child-care advocates in the true sense of the word and our children, our families and our early education community are so very fortunate to have them in our corner."
FELS, a Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia partner agency, provides programming for infants, toddlers, pre-school and school-age children. The agency's annual fundraiser, which will recognize the couple for more than three decades of helping others, will take place at the Wynnewood home of honorary chairs Jay and Sara Minkoff.
"I was deeply honored," said Marcy, who along with Dan, readily accepted. "It is very affirming for the work I have done all of my professional life," stated Marcy.
For Dan, active since 1980 in various fundraising capacities with Federation, it was equally flattering.
An early-childhood educator, Marcy began her career teaching pre-kindergarten children in a Head Start program for 12 years. In 1982, motivated to create a caring, child-care program within the Jewish community, she followed her heart and became the director of what is now the Terri Lynne Lokoff Early Learning Center in Ambler. Originally established in Wynnefield, today the center is one of six FELS locations.
Marcy retired in 1996 with plans to increase her volunteer efforts at the Germantown Jewish Centre, where she and Dan, a class-action attorney and partner in the firm of Barrack, Rodos & Bacine, are active members. Simultaneously, she was recruited to the board of directors of the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation, a separate entity from the FELS center, whose mission is to support and promote quality child care. Dedicated to that mission, professionally and personally, she has served on the board for a decade, as president, vice president and presently as child-care specialist.
Married for 36 years, the couple shares a dedication to making a difference. "We are a team," she explained. "Dan supports me in my work, and I support him."
A past synagogue Women's Club president, Marcy still finds time to wear multiple hats there, including chairing the annual auction and as co-manager of the gift shop.
Raised in a Conservative Jewish home in Mount Airy, Marcy noted that her parents were active in the Jewish community. Marcy became a Bat Mitzvah, was confirmed and began her involvement with social causes in high school. She describes her Jewish commitment as a natural part of her life.
Dan was raised in what he says was a secular Jewish environment in the West Oak Lane neighborhood of Philadelphia. "I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, all of my friends were Jewish, and I became a Bar Mitzvah." He attributes his introduction to Jewish communal issues to Marcy, whom he met at Temple University.
"I knew very little about Federation until I began practicing law in Philadelphia in the 1970s," he admitted. All of that changed when law partner Len Barrack, who is the incoming Federation board chair, suggested that he take Federation's Zachor Leadership Mission to Israel in 1980. Dan's first trip to the Jewish homeland, the mission proved to be life-altering and eye-opening, igniting a spark and subsequent commitment to community.
"The Zachor experience was far different than any other," said Dan, who has since traveled to Israel with Marcy on numerous occasions. "Not only did I learn an enormous amount about Israel, but also about how to have a 'Jewish conversation.' " As a result of the training, Dan acquired the necessary skills to raise money for the Jewish community — a vital task and responsibility as a communal leader.
Dan became increasingly active with Federation, serving as chairman of the former Lawyers Division and Major Gifts Division, and as co-chair of Meadowlands Country Club's Jewish Community Day.
"Len Barrack was and still is my mentor," stated Dan, who was president of Germantown Jewish Centre from 1989 to 1991, and presently co-chairs its Development Committee. Recently elected to the board of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, Dan's philosophy is, "If Jews don't help other Jews, then who will?"
"Everything I know about child-care issues, I learned from Marcy," added Dan.
"Child care is such a needed service in our society," emphasized Marcy. "I firmly believe in the need for quality, caring educators who are willing to devote time and energy to the betterment of children. It is so important to provide a well-rounded education to young children and to accommodate working families.
"My own children were in child care when they were babies," continued Marcy, referring to the couple's grown sons, Matthew, 32, and Gabriel, 30.
Marcy says that for many families, FELS sites are the entree into the formal Jewish community. "For many — particularly those intermarried with no real connection to Judaism — they trusted that FELS would be a place from which to begin. There is a lot of Jewish learning that takes place, with a focus on Shabbat, holidays and traditions. Families are immersed in the learning process."
Chuck Finder, FELS board member and gala co-chair with wife, Darien, and board member Steve Gable and wife, Sundee, recalls the impact that Marcy and the Lokoff Center had on his three children and family. "Marcy was a strong leader who modeled the behaviors she expected from her staff. They knew she was there for them. They, in turn, were there for her and, most importantly, for the children."
Marcy shares a story that to her and Dan drives home the power of early-childhood education. Marcy has stayed in touch with a family that she met while at FELS. The father, born Jewish, was raised in a non-observant home. The mother, born a non-Jew, has since converted. Today, the family belongs to a Conservative synagogue and leads an active Jewish life.
Crediting Marcy as the positive and pivotal Jewish influence in their lives, the family asked Marcy to have an aliyah at the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, who attended FELS.
"To think that I laid the groundwork for their commitment to Judaism is truly touching," said Marcy.
"This story illustrates the importance of instilling Jewish education in early childhood, to build the next generation of Jews," said Dan.
"FELS serves such a useful purpose in the Jewish community, and has been very meaningful in our lives," he continued earnestly. "Marcy created something from nothing, an accomplishment we are so proud of."
For more information, call Jessica Brookstein at 215-676-7550, Ext. 108, or visit: www.FelsKids.com.