Because their 5-year-old grandson Jonah has juvenile diabetes, it is very important to Helene and Allen Apter to support stem-cell research that can help find a cure for the disease.
"That my wife and I were able to do this through the [Jewish] Federation [of Greater Philadelphia] as part of our annual gift shows the effectiveness of their new focus on targeted giving," said Allen Apter, campaign co-chair with David Marshall in 2003 of what is now the Jewish Community Fund. "I talked with Harold [Goldman, Federation president] about the possibility and we were provided with all the information and help we needed.
"As donors, everything came together to fit our needs," he continued. "Focused giving makes people feel good about giving. Donors can now give through the centers to programs they care about."
The Apters also give their support to the Barrer Art Center in Ma'alot, Israel; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; and Jerusalem's Yad Vashem. They are members of Federation's Legacy Society and Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen.
Allen Apter credits his mother "who took a can around for Deborah Hospital" as his inspiration for being philanthropic. "She taught me: 'Being charitable is something we all must do.' "
Helene Apter agreed: "We wouldn't know what it is like not to give."
Early in their marriage, the couple traveled through Europe and made a stop at Dachau. "We were on a shoestring budget then," said Allen Apter, "and I couldn't have imagined then that we would endow a chair in Holocaust Studies at my alma mater, Lehigh University [in Allentown]. But the images of what we saw stayed with us."
Years later, in a conversation with friends, Rosalie and Sydney Rose, the Aptars learned that their Florida friends had endowed a chair in graduate Holocaust studies at Clark University in Massachusetts.
"Their gift was an inspiration," said Allen Apter, adding that he had been considering a significant gift to his alma mater.
In addition to their ongoing commitment to the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community, the couple recently endowed the Helene and Allen Apter '61 Chair in Holocaust Studies and Ethical Values at Lehigh where Allen Apter earned a degree in industrial engineering. He now heads R.A. Industries of Lansdale.
"Lehigh basically gave me the building blocks for my success today," said Allen Apter. "Though I am a businessman, not an engineer, they taught me a thinking process that has stuck.
"And learning about the Holocaust is so important to the school's Jewish studies program," he continued. "Lehigh has had courses on the Holocaust for some time, and they have always been oversubscribed.With the university also contributing to the chair, the funds will be used to pay a professor, one whose background and caliber will put the educator on the tenure track.
"Many people make endowments upon their deaths," added Allen Apter. "We wanted to do so while we're alive. I'm looking forward to attending classes and seeing it all happen. My concern is that the Holocaust will not be remembered. Many young people don't know what took place – and then there are the deniers. The farther away we get from it, the more important it is that we don't let the Holocaust be forgotten by Jews and non-Jews."
Allen Apter has always lived in the Philadelphia area. Helene Apter is a native New Yorker and earned a bachelor's degree from Queens College and a master's degree in development and remedial reading from the City College of New York. The couple met at a resort in New Hampshire that was popular with singles. They have a son and daughter and three grandchildren.
In addition to spoiling the grandchildren, the Apters said they enjoy collecting art and playing golf.
Their hope for their grandchildren's future? Said Helene Apter: "We hope that they will live in a world at peace."