Challenge Accepted: Philanthropist Steps Up for Holocaust Survivors
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“My Mother is a Holocaust Survivor born on the Czechoslovakia Ukraine border. She was 1 of 9 children, and only herself, her brother and her sister survived. She came to the United States in 1947 and now seasonally resides in Boca Raton. One day, we were talking about philanthropy and the needs of Holocaust Survivors as they age. I always had a sense of the surprising statistics about Jewish poverty, because we’ve always heard a lot about Jewish success. We don’t hear enough about Jewish needs, particularly the needs of Survivors. The challenges of aging can be overwhelming for anyone, yet alone Holocaust Survivors with limited resources. Mom floated the idea of working through the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County to make a difference, so I did.” -Warren Spector
The timing could not have been better! Warren Spector sought out Michael Hoffman, Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, to explore opportunities to make a difference for Survivors. It just so happened that the Jewish Federations of North America, (JFNA) were in the process of organizing a campaign for a new cycle of Holocaust Survivor funding, offering the opportunity for a $3 to $2 match for new money raised. Spector responded to this “challenge grant” by not only accepting the challenge, but generously making the pledge necessary to raise every possible dollar from the matching funds. “When I approached Warren, he told me his history, how his mother was a Survivor and how he was personally touched and affected. He told me he wanted to make a difference. It couldn’t have been a better fit for the Federation, for Alpert JFS, and for our Survivors,” says Hoffman.
Warren Spector’s childhood was spent in a quaint suburb of Washington, DC. In fact, his mother still owns and resides in his childhood home some 50 years later. After attending a rigorous liberal arts program at St. Johns College and earning an MBA from the University of Chicago, Spector set his eyes on Wall Street. In his 24 year tenure at Bear Stearns, Spector spent his last 6 years as President and Co-Chief Operating Officer, managing the entire market side of the firm. Now, Spector sits as Chairman of Balbec Capital, a private investment firm. “I was a hard worker and was able to capitalize on some incredible opportunities. I knew that people like myself had a responsibility to give back. I had learned about Tzedakah from my parents at an early age, particularly supporting the local Jewish community and Federation,” says Spector.
Thanks to the philanthropic efforts of Spector, the JNFA and our local Jewish Federation, Alpert JFS has been able to expand not only our care for Survivors, but provide critical education and outreach into the community in order to educate medical and healthcare professionals in properly caring for Survivors. One of Alpert JFS’ Clinical Psychologists, Dr. Arielle Burdo, was funded to provide psychological services and therapy for survivors experiencing emotional challenges. Additionally, a dedicated member of Alpert JFS’ intake and referral team was funded to provide robust assessments for Survivor’s seeking the agencies support.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of the JFNA grant came in the form of the creation of a new (2016) program to JFS, HonoringLife™. This program, staffed by Program Director Michael Gans PhDc, and Outreach Coordinator, Midge Elias, provide training and workshops to create a culturally competent, person-centered and trauma-informed approach for the care of Holocaust Survivors and their families. To date, HonoringLife workshops have impacted over 2,000 service providers who have been trained in 115 workshops. “It’s incredible to have played a role in a program like this, Spector says. It is our job and responsibility to shield Survivors from being re-traumatized. It’s great to have an agency like Alpert JFS at the forefront of these critical efforts. The more education, outreach and training we provide, the better our healthcare community will be when it comes to taking care of this vulnerable population.” Up next for HonoringLife will be a “train the trainer” component, empowering and training individuals in the health care community to provide ongoing cultural competency training to their staff. “We’re proud that through the HonoringLife Program, hundreds and potentially thousands of professionals will learn how to provide Person-Centered, Trauma-Informed Care. This training will ultimately benefit thousands of older adults who have experienced trauma,” said Shelley Rood Wernick, Director of JFNA’s Center for Advancing Holocaust Survivor Care.
Spector’s philanthropy is well documented throughout the Eastern United States. His involvement in The Gift of Life Bone Marrow Registry paved the way to link people with more Jewish donors. “This one was also personal,” said Spector. “My sister underwent a bone marrow transplant for her cancer several years ago and is fortunate to be thriving.” Spector served as Chairman of the Board of “The Public Theater,” a not-for-profit theater in New York, famous for the acclaimed “Hamilton” before it went to Broadway. On Martha’s Vineyard, where Spector maintains a home, he took on a major capital campaign to build the new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Currently, at his Alma Mater, St. John’s College, Spector is Chairman of a $300,000,000 Capital Campaign tasked with offsetting tuition costs and creating a new financial model for the college. “It’s not for new buildings. We want the College to be less tuition-dependent while simultaneously helping scholars by making college more accessible and affordable,” says Spector.
When he’s not undertaking his incredible philanthropic endeavors, Warren enjoys golf, tennis and sailing. Most of all, he’s a competitive bridge player. How competitive? Warren just got back from the World Bridge Championship where he finished third in the Open Team Division.
When it comes to things that Warren Spector is passionate about, he plays for keeps!
Warren. On behalf of our area’s Holocaust Survivors and our Jewish community as a whole, we would like extend our deepest gratitude. It’s a privilege to have you as a member of our community.
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