Although they are actually transplants to the area, Alene and Ron Kaufman are such an integral part of the Tidewater Jewish community that it feels as if they have been here forever.
Ron’s parents arrived in the United States from Germany in 1937, meeting after World War II in 1948. Alene’s family has been in the U.S. much longer, with both of her parents born in the country. “My grandfather fled the Czar on a piece of ice with a cousin on his back, coming to the U.S. from the Ukraine and leaving his family behind for many years,” she says. Her great grandmother came from Poland in the late 1800s and her great, great grandfather ran a general store—what they called a “Jew store” in the tiny town of Mikado, Michigan.
When considering what influenced them Jewishly, Alene believes it was a sum of many parts of her life that make her who she is. “My grandfather actually started the Reform congregation in Elizabeth, New Jersey. We were very much a part of that congregation in shaping it and making it grow.”
At Hofstra University, where she double majored in Elementary Education and Judaica, Alene was influenced by Jewish intellectuals. Meeting as students at Hofstra, Alene and Ron married, moved to Virginia, and she began her involvement with the Jewish community. First, it was with United Synagogue Youth, then as a teacher and Judaic Studies director at Hebrew Academy, followed by serving as director of the Strelitz Early Childhood Education Center. In these roles, Alene has impacted hundreds of area children and families.
“So when you take that and you put it all together, and you have a marriage, and you have friends and you have a community, those are the things that really made us who we have become,” says Alene.
The Kaufmans are a family of doers. “We didn’t have a lot, so we didn’t give a lot of money, but what my parents instilled in us was that we could give time,” says Alene. By giving their kids the gift of an education at Hebrew Academy, tzedakah became a core value, and as adults both of their sons still understand the importance of tzedakah. Alene recalls, “A funny thing that we did was that if you found change in the pockets of your clothes, the change went into the tzedakah box, so that even doing the laundry was a Jewish thing.”
For their LIFE & LEGACY gifts, the Kaufmans decided on three organizations. Hebrew Academy is one of the recipients. “Our boys had the privilege of a wonderful Jewish and secular education and we wanted to make sure that exists so that other children will have that incredible opportunity,” says Alene. They also felt it was important to leave a gift for Kehillat Bet Hamidrash (KBH) Kempsville Conservative Synagogue. Ron believes that “It’s important, especially in small communities, to have strong institutions. There is a place in the world for small synagogues. Some people feel overwhelmed in large synagogues. KBH is like a family.” They also chose to leave a gift for the Tidewater Jewish Foundation because it “helps special projects to be funded and secures the future in general.”
The Kaufmans say they hope their legacy gift will help them be remembered as part of the fabric of the community, as people who made an impact and had a purpose—people who contributed and made a difference.
To create a legacy gift or to learn more about the LIFE & LEGACYTM program, contact Barb Gelb, TJF director of Philanthropy, at 757.965.6105.
— Barb Gelb