By Stephanie Smartschan
JFLV Director of Marketing
Carol Bub Fromer and Gary Fromer, co-chairs of the Federation’s 2018 Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs, recently sat down with HAKOL to talk about their backgrounds, their involvement in the Lehigh Valley Jewish community and their hopes for the upcoming year.
What brought you to the Lehigh Valley?
C: My family emigrated from South Africa to Allentown in 1977 because they favored a vibrant and active Jewish community. For Gary and I, the Lehigh Valley offered an intimate community that was attracting young Jewish families like us, with many dynamic Jewish organizations.
G: It was not only a great place to raise kids, but an opportunity to be near family.
How did you get involved in the Jewish community and how have you been involved since?
G: Within a year of moving here, our first child was born and was immediately immersed in the JCC’s Early Childhood Education program. Both of our children attended the Jewish Day School through eighth grade, where each of us has served as active board members. We’ve participated at Sons of Israel, at Beth El and at other synagogues in the area. Carol also recently served on the board of Jewish Family Service. We are very grateful for the variety of opportunities we‘ve had to participate in and to help guide our Jewish organizations.
C: Like Gary said, the ECE program at the JCC offered so many great programs for toddlers, it was a great place to hang out, meet other families, join committees and get involved. Beth El sisterhood was another thriving community where I met some wonderful girls who remain dear friends to this day. We were also involved in the Young Adult Division at the Federation, and there we met yet another group of wonderful individuals. The Federation provided speakers every month, educational updates and a trip to AIPAC. Our involvement naturally led us to further participate in the Jewish community, and was a great stepping stone for Gary and me. Also, being raised in a very Zionistic family didn’t hurt – Israel was always at the forefront of my life, so it was an honor to raise not only money, but awareness for our Jewish brothers and sisters abroad.
Why are you taking on this role in the campaign?
G: I’ve served on the Allocations Committee for the last several years and chaired it the last two, so I’ve become intimately familiar with the needs of our agencies locally and those of our agencies serving the needs of Jews abroad. The Annual Campaign is the vehicle for us to provide for the JCC, the JDS and JFS as well as educational series at our synagogues, Jewish films, Israeli shlichim in the summer and much else. When I considered how much our community and Jews in need around the world depend on the Annual Campaign, it was a difficult request to turn down.
C: As a member of the Federation board for many years, one can definitely appreciate a sense of change and transition. We have a lot of seasoned and very generous philanthropic families that are getting older and we welcome the challenge of trying to reignite the campaign, reinvigorate our volunteers and engage our younger generations.
The Federation will hold its “Main Event” on Nov. 9. Talk to me about how you came up with the idea?
C: I came across Harlan Cohen when our eldest went to college because he wrote a national bestseller called “The Naked Roommate” which talks about getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and how to transition in uncomfortable situations. I stumbled across him and his TED talk and I was immediately impressed and moved by what he had to say. Plus, I thought he really could reach other people because who’s not uncomfortable at least once a day in their life? Harlan is a nationally syndicated columnist and speaker and will be talking about grit and resilience. He’s very engaging, very interactive with the audience and he really has a sense of how to connect with all ages. Federation will be hosting him on Nov. 9. At 5 p.m., he will lead a one-hour discussion and pizza dinner just for teenagers, and then at 7 p.m., we will open the adult program. We invite everyone to join us for what promises to be a really wonderful and enlightening evening. Stay tuned.
What are you looking forward to in this year’s campaign?
C: We’re really excited to work with a wonderful group of campaign volunteers and highly engaged donors. Look, we all know that the needs are compelling and the task is sometimes overwhelming, but fundraising can be fun too. Working alongside other volunteers, event planning and nurturing relationships are all part of the experience and there are many special moments along the way. We warmly welcome everyone who wants to get involved.