During their 56-year marriage, Sol and Gloria Moldoff shared a passion for one another, for their three children and for the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community. Moldoff describes his wife, who died last June, as a "nurturer who taught our children to perform charitable acts." To perpetuate his wife's commitment to tzedakah, Moldoff worked with the endowment staff of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia to establish the Gloria Moldoff Memorial Fund.
Moldoff, who has answered phone calls for some 50 years as a Federation Super Sunday volunteer, turned to Federation for its expertise in creating a legacy that will benefit Jews in need for generations to come.
"I knew that investing in Federation is the most efficient way to deal with Jewish social problems," he said.
And so, Federation Endowment officer Amanda M. Goldstein worked with Moldoff to help him create a fund to best reflect his late wife's philanthropic interests. After lengthy deliberations, it was decided that the Gloria Moldoff Memorial Fund will exclusively benefit the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, an organization whose singular mission is to aid Jewish women in financial crisis.
FHBS, founded 187 years ago by the women of Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia, is America's oldest Jewish charity in continuous existence. Since the Society's inception, Rebecca Gratz -- a woman whose philanthropic leadership was greatly admired by Moldoff and his late wife -- was a guiding force.
"I attended some Gratz College classes at the Gershman Y some 15 years ago and wrote a paper on Jewish leaders of Philadelphia," said Moldoff, adding that "my research revealed that Rebecca Gratz had a tremendous influence on Jewish charitable causes."
When Goldstein mentioned the connection between Gratz and the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, Moldoff recalled that his "ears perked up."
He respected Gratz's determination to use her social stature and affluence to benefit society's most fragile and needy individuals. When she was 20, she organized the Female Association for the Relief of Women and Children of Reduced Circumstances in Philadelphia. She was also one of the founders of the nonsectarian Philadelphia Orphan Asylum, chartered in 1815, and served as its secretary for more than 40 years.
Gratz's devotion to her nine nieces and nephews following the death of her sister perhaps inspired her to create the Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum while her solid Orthodox upbringing influenced her to found and serve as president of the Hebrew Sunday School Society of Philadelphia, which was created to provide a free Jewish education to children from all parts of the Philadelphia Jewish community.
Like Rebecca Gratz, Gloria Moldoff had a special place in her heart for foster children. The couple cared for several children in their home through the years -- a tradition carried on by their daughter, Gila Moldoff and her husband.
"My wife, my daughter, and my two sons, David and Robert, wanted to share the love we had for each other with children who were not nurtured by their own families," said Moldoff, who believes that a lack of nurturing is at the root of many of the serious problems plaguing our society. As he explained, "I am 85 years old, and I don't remember the types of vicious crimes and personal animosity that exists today."
He rationalizes that "our community has not cared for its young people as in past generations."
Moldoff read the literature on the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, and found the "nurturing spirit" pervading the organization's work with our community's most fragile individuals. He was particularly impressed with the fact that the society is managed by a president and a board of 13 managers, all of whom act in a volunteer capacity.
"Our work is 100 percent tzedakah," said Eileen Sklaroff, who has served as society president for many years. She works out of her home, cutting overhead costs to less than 2 percent. Her board covers the majority of these expenses out of their own pockets.
Sklaroff is quite proud of the organization's success in maximizing its limited resources to serve those individuals in critical need. In 2006-07, the society distributed $111,314 to 197 different women, ranging in age from preschoolers to centenarians. Clients are identified by social workers and other Jewish communal professionals.
A very small number of clients with low incomes receive monthly stipends. All additional funds are used to meet a wide variety of emergency needs including assistance with mortgage and/or rent payments, utility bills, auto insurance and medical co-pays.
$7,105 in funds enabled 26 elderly and disabled women to remain in their homes with the peace of mind that an emergen-cy response system can bring. Seven additional women, five of whom are Holocaust survivors, are able to retain their independence, thanks to stair glides. Both the emergency response system and stair glide programs were fully funded by Federation Endowments Corporation and a poverty grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's Center for Social Responsibility.
Sklaroff is also pleased that the society helped 92 children, including five with special needs, attend day and overnight summer camps through $25,215 in camp scholarships.
"These children come from single parent families, as well as two-parent families, facing medical and/or financial challenges, she explained, adding that "Without FHBS assistance, they would not be able to attend camp."
Sklaroff is honored and excited that the society was selected as the sole beneficiary of the Gloria Moldoff Memorial Fund: "This wonderful gift will give our organization a solid foundation to build upon. We can worry less about cash flow, and concentrate more on fulfilling our mandate -- to help as many Jewish women as possible."
For more information about creating a fund with the Federation Endowments Corporation, call Rachel Gross at 215-832-0572 or e-mail her at: [email protected] .
Profiles of Female Hebrew Benevolent Society Clients
· Olga works full-time, earning $1,916 per month. Born in the former Soviet Union, this 28-year-old single mother is the sole supporter of a family of four. Her grandmother temporarily lost her SSI when she failed her U.S. citizenship test, significantly reducing the household income. And her father recently returned to Philadelphia from New York because he has cancer, creating additional financial and emotional stress for Olga. FHBS paid the mortgage, water, gas, electric and phone bills for the period of one month. The total came to $1,048.58.
· Donna, 36, left an emotionally abusive relationship and moved across the city with her four children, all under the age of 6. With only the oldest in public school, she needs to pay preschool tuition for two children and day-care fees for the third. Donna earns $2,100 a month, and has initiated legal action to obtain child support. Rent costs $1,350 a month; FHBS paid $1,000 toward that.