By Stephanie Goodling
The Fraenkel name is a well-known one in the Lehigh Valley Jewish community, and with good reason. Barnet Fraenkel’s parents both grew up here when they came to the Lehigh Valley as toddlers in the 1920s. Barnet has carried on his father, Fabian’s, work of leadership, and when Lisa moved here and met Barnet, she was already teaching at the Jewish Day School and had her children enrolled at Camp JCC.
“In the 1980s, I started out on the board of the JCC and Jewish Family Service, and then got on Federation’s a little after,” recalled Barnet.
Barnet has served as a board member of the Jewish Federation of Lehigh Valley, in roles of president, four-time campaign chair, allocations chair and personnel chair and is now an honorary vice president. He was also a board member and past-president of the Jewish Community Center, a board member and treasurer of Jewish Family Service and a board member of Temple Beth El.
In addition to these many titles, Barnet is still actively co-chairing the annual Mortimer S. Schiff Memorial Golf Tournament. And he is also still involved with the Jewish Community Center, having recently been on the committee for their 100th anniversary celebration.
Lisa gave many years of hard work to the JCC, co-chairing their art gallery. And her career continued at JDS, where she taught 24 years. Their children also continued to be involved, moving on to being counselors at Camp JCC as well as active with BBYO.
“For years, Lisa and Barnet have led by example to contribute to the JCC’s current and future vibrancy. Barnet followed in his father’s footsteps as a president of the JCC, and continues to be an active advocate for us in the area’s philanthropic community,” said Eric Lightman, JCC executive director. “Lisa’s dedicated volunteer involvement with our arts and culture programs have likewise made a lasting impact on our organization and community.”
Jeri Zimmerman, Federation executive director, agreed that the Fraenkels are an asset to the Lehigh Valley.
“It is a pleasure to know Barnet and Lisa Fraenkel,” she said. “They are both warm and caring, and we are grateful for their commitment to enriching our Jewish community.”
The family have also been long-time members of Temple Beth El in Allentown, where Barnet grew up. Like Barnet, Lisa also served as a board member there.
“It is a multi-generational thing,” Barnet said of their participation there. Both of his grandfathers were founders and past-presidents of the congregation.
Barnet is also still serving as an officer of the Charles and Figa Kline Foundation, which funds Jewish charities, keeping him abreast of what is happening with all of the different agencies he has served over the years.
One of the other two officers, Stewart Furmansky, is also an old friend of the Fraenkels.
“I’ve known Barnet most of my life,” said Furmansky. “And we’re not only social friends and golfing friends, but he and I both serve on the Kline Foundation together. I actually was on it prior to him. His father, Fabian, was on before me and asked me to join. His father was devoted to the foundation, and then when Barnet came on, I would say he had the same outlook of it as his father did.”
Furmansky went on to say, “I can tell you that you probably will not find a more honest person in the world than Barnet. And besides the Kline Foundation and the Federation and the Trexler Trust, he finds a way to help people that need help, and he does it very quietly.”
The Harry C. Trexler Trust is one way that the Fraenkels are involved in giving back to the greater Lehigh Valley community. Barnet serves as a trustee for the organization, which has awarded nearly $155 million to charitable organizations throughout Lehigh County since 1935. Lisa also gives back to Allentown by serving on the executive board of the Baum School of Art.
Having the perspective of a whole lifetime spent in the Lehigh Valley Jewish community, Barnet is pleased with the direction he sees the community taking.
“I’m really very, very impressed with the current professional and lay leadership we have,” he said. “I think they’re doing a remarkable job, and I’m really excited to see what’s happening in all the agencies,” he said.