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The Time to Help Women and Israel

August 4, 2005 By:
Zara Myers, JE Features
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beth reisboard
When Beth Reisboard looked into the eyes of an elderly diner at the Neuman Senior Center, it was "a validation of why I give my time and my support to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

"She needed that lunch. Our eyes met as she wrapped a portion of it to take home for her dinner, and she said, 'Thank you,' " recalled Reisboard, past co-chair of Federation's annual campaign in 1994-95 - the first and only woman in the position - and a past chair of its Women's Division. "I remember her face to this day."

A volunteer for more than 30 years, Reisboard's involvement in Federation started with a Young Women's Division meeting. "I told them I wasn't an organization person, but since Federation provided much-needed human services, this was different."

She went on to help plan four educational programs that required no minimum gift so that young women could come and learn about Federation.

Gerda Klein, Holocaust survivor and author, was the featured speaker at the concluding program, an annual campaign fundraising luncheon that drew 100 women.

Meeting Klein had a profound effect on Reisboard, who chaired the event. A close friendship evolved, including sharing their families' simchas and hard times, and also resulted in Reisboard's current role as executive director of the Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation. The nonprofit group has its national office locally, and provides programming and teaching tools on tolerance and diversity for schools throughout the country.

Having grown up in Yeadon, where Jews were a minority, Reisboard said that tolerance and diversity were qualities she learned from a young age. Nevertheless, she said she loved the low-key, hometown atmosphere that came to include the Jewish community, which was centered on the synagogue -Yeadon Jewish Community Center - that her parents helped found.

Reisboard met her husband, Rick, at Temple University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in education. She then taught in inner-city schools and developed her own tutoring service.

"Rick and my children have always been caring and supportive of my work as a volunteer," she said. "When Dana overheard someone ask me about how my children felt about my involvement, she said: 'We always knew we came first.' "

Reisboard has also served as a Federation vice president, and sits on its Board of Trustees. On a national level, she has served on the executive committee of the Women's United Jewish Appeal board and as its national missions chair. The Reisboards are members of Temple Beth Hillel/Beth El in Wynnewood.

Another way Reisboard balanced the roles of volunteer and mother was to go on three missions to Israel as a family, from the time her kids were in middle school until they started college.

"We share a love for Israel," said Reisboard, who has led 19 missions to the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Israel. "And Israel is part of my family. They're on the frontlines of keeping world Jewry safe. I support it through Federation because what other country in the world would rescue and resettle Jews?"

On the subject of family, ask Reisboard how many children she has and she'll answer four - always including Dana's husband, Hal Korin, and Adam's wife, Lisa Reisboard. The Reisboards are the parents of Etan, 7, and Jonah, 4; and the Korins of Gabriella, 2.

"My hope for the future is that our grandchildren grow up with peace in the Middle East," said Reisboard, "and in a vibrant and inclusive Jewish community."

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