- Meet Our Leaders
Alex Ingersoll is a quiet motivator who brings an innate charm and warmth that naturally galvanizes others around the causes that matter most to him. His constructive approach and humor put everyone at ease. Since joining the JFCS Board of Directors two years ago, Alex has become an outspoken and empathetic leader. Alex also sits on the JFCS Endowment Committee and, this year, he will chair the Loans and Grants Committee. As Alex prepares for retirement from his long career at San Francisco law firms, his energy and passion to support his Jewish and LGBT community remain unstoppable. A thoughtful and committed leader, Alex likes to make things happen by joining the right supporters to the right cause and says, “All my work with JFCS continually challenges me to think creatively and responsibly. And that’s sufficient return on my investment of time.”
Tell us a bit about the community where you grew up and your background.
I didn’t walk a common path. I grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York and I attended a local Dutch Reformed Church. When I moved to New York City at age 17, I had my first exposure to the Jewish community. That introduction accelerated when I moved to Israel ten years later—partnered with a professor at Tel Aviv University. He was “Jewishly” knowledgeable and I studied The Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) in preparation for my textbook editing job.
By the time we moved San Francisco in 1979 and joined Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, my Jewish knowledge, Hebrew skills, and challah-baking led everyone to assume I was Jewish. I formally converted to Judaism a few years later—which at that time was treated more as an “affirmation” than a conversion. Since settling in San Francisco I have viewed both the Jewish and the LGBT communities as my communities.
How did you first get involved with JFCS?
About fifteen years ago I worked alongside the JFCS executive staff to find a therapist for Sha’ar Zahav to assist our rabbi when our congregants needed more than pastoral counseling. It was around that time that I was introduced to the JFCS’ Fammy Awards Gala by Jerry Rosenstein, of blessed memory and a devoted supporter of JFCS. When Jerry needed assistance in his home last fall, it was heartwarming to witness JFCS’ response in providing home care and palliative care to our dear friend.
Over the past several years my husband, Martin Tannenbaum, has been very involved in the work of JFCS and he has been a great motivation for me. Through his work, my awareness of the range and effectiveness of services was greatly enhanced. When Dr. Anita Friedman asked me to join the board I felt that, if I could contribute to JFCS’ success, I was in!
How do you encourage others to become involved with JFCS?
Since JFCS provides such a wide range of services to the community I try to get a sense of whom I’m speaking to and see where their interests lie. From my experience, everyone is looking for connection and meaning—even if they don’t quite know it yet! By talking about how JFCS serves our community in so many ways I often spark excitement and the question, “I want to help, so how can I get involved?”
I also encourage friends to join Martin and me at the Fammy Gala, which is always a great showcase for the power of JFCS’ work. Last year, as regional co-chairs for San Francisco, we were able to fill two tables. It is really gratifying when you realize that you’ve made new connections.
Is there a project you have worked on with JFCS that is especially rewarding to you?
I find my work on the JFCS Loans and Grants Committee to be very satisfying. I’m always impressed by how much the staff of JFCS’ Financial Aid Center knows about each applicant. JFCS does much more than just give out grants and loans; it takes a holistic approach to each student by counseling them on how to navigate the larger world of financial assistance. From filling out their federal student aid forms, to guidance on how best to find other grants and scholarships, JFCS helps each student find a path to college. JFCS really helps bring higher education within reach. It’s an impressive service!
Anything else you would like to add?
It’s always motivating for me to be a part of an organization or campaign that makes real change happen. I’m a big supporter of JFCS because of the tangible results I see. We restore families and improve the lives of so many.