The LIFE & LEGACY® initiative, a project of the national Harold Grinspoon Foundation, is now in its second year in the Ann Arbor area, and the estimated value of gifts is already over $10.6 million from 215 members of our local Jewish community. That is an astounding feat our community has accomplished in just over a year and a half.

This $10.6 million is intended to be realized after a donor’s lifetime, ensuring the financial sustainability of Jewish life in Washtenaw County for the next generation. Each donor who has committed to leaving a legacy gift to one or more of the 11 local participating organizations has a unique reason for doing so–their “Why.” Collectively, these “Whys” and the gifts they produce have the potential to make a big impact on the future of the Jewish community in the Ann Arbor area.

One such donor is Toni Greenberg, a UM alumni parent. Toni chose to make her legacy gift by establishing the Ruth Goldschmidt Memorial Fund for Holocaust Remembrance at Michigan Hillel.

“After my mother passed away, my children and I discussed how to honor her memory,” Toni shares when asked about her “Why.” “My mother fled Germany in 1938, at age 16, via the Kindertransport. She spent nine years on the run among France, Switzerland, and Belgium, under horrific circumstances, and finally emigrated to the United States, having lost her entire family. She built a good life here and her greatest joy was her grandchildren.”

Toni and her family started thinking about ways to honor her mother’s incredible life. “We discussed doing something Holocaust education-related,” Toni says, “because she had spoken countless times to synagogue and community groups, and because as survivors aged, my mother feared that people would forget the lessons of the Holocaust.”

A few months after her mother passed, Toni’s daughter Miriam (UM ’21) remarked, “You know, every time I visited Grandma, even when she could barely communicate anymore, she would always ask me if I’d been to Hillel events, and what was going on with Hillel. I wonder why that was so important to her?”

Upon reflection, Toni concluded, “I think it was because she lost those high school and young adult years, and never had a chance to be part of a youth group or go to college. She was especially delighted that Miriam went to Shabbat dinners and other events and made friends at Hillel.”

With that realization in mind, “We endowed the Ruth Goldschmidt Memorial Fund for Holocaust Remembrance at Michigan Hillel to ensure that young adults bear witness to the Holocaust, and because Hillel was so important to my mother and is so important to us.”

For more information about LIFE & LEGACY, please contact Osnat Gafni-Pappas at the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor at osnat@jewishannarbor.org or 734-773-3538. You can also reach out directly to any of the following participating community organizations: Ann Arbor Orthodox Minyan, Beth Israel Congregation, Chabad House, Eastern Michigan University Center for Jewish Studies, Hebrew Day School of Ann Arbor, Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor, Jewish Cultural Society, Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County, Temple Beth Emeth, and University of Michigan Hillel.