- Meet Our Leaders
John F. Sampson comes from a long line of Bay Area civic leaders and community builders. He and Sharon L. Litsky, his wife, are well known for their warmth, creativity, and passion for the causes they believe in. John helps lead JFCS as a Board member and Sharon is also a former JFCS Board member who has left her unique and indelible mark on the agency. Each year this powerhouse couple brings their enthusiasm and welcoming smiles to their roles on the JFCS Fammy Gala Committee, which they chaired in 2009.
As a well-respected forensic appraiser and property manager in San Francisco, John is the Chair of the JFCS Facilities Committee. He uses his expertise to help maintain and preserve JFCS’ capital assets as well as reviewing improvements and repairs to many facilities throughout the Bay Area each year. Having been involved with the organization for nearly 20 years, John says, “JFCS is one of the most valuable organizations of its kind in the country.”
Tell us a bit about the community where you grew up and your background.
I grew up in San Francisco and my family has deep roots here. I graduated from Lowell High School (like my father before me) and I was Bar Mitzvah’ed at Temple Emanu-El. I feel extremely fortunate and proud of such a wonderful family with a proud American heritage.
Like many Jewish families of the time, holiday celebrations growing up included Christmas time with a tree, presents, and all the holiday trimmings—while we faithfully attended the High Holiday services. Christmas celebrations ended years later when I was raising my own children. My 10 year-old daughter came home from her Emanu-El Sunday school class and announced, “We are not having any more Christmas trees and we will celebrate Chanukkah.” And that was that!
How did you first get involved with JFCS?
I began attending the Fammy Gala about 20 years ago with my wife, Sharon, an avid JFCS lay leader. We are a team and have both served on committees throughout the years. Sharon served on the JFCS Board for five years prior to my appointment and her incredible passion for JFCS kindled my own. Although Sharon is a hard act to follow, I was honored to become a Board member.
Have you always been involved in philanthropy?
Yes, I’ve been involved ever since I went with my mother door to door in the Fillmore District soliciting for what was then called the Community Chest. After college I helped my parents with their accounting and, after reviewing their books and calculating their contributions, encouraged them to be more generous, especially to Jewish causes.
My grandfather, Frederick Kahn, was one of the Kahn Brothers who owned and managed a successful clothing store of the same name, located in downtown Oakland, that Frederick eventually built into a major department store, Kahn’s (now the Rotunda Building). He was also the first President of the East Bay Jewish Federation back in the 1920s, and he was a civic leader and a role model for me. By his example I recognized that it is an obligation as much as a privilege to give. I’m fortunate enough to be able to take good care of my family, that then means I can also afford to help others in need in my community.
Has JFCS helped you or have you used the services in some way?
My wife and I referred my sister and brother-in-law to the Palliative Care Program last year when our brother-in-law was nearing the end of his struggle with cancer. J. Redwing Keyssar, RN, JFCS’ Director of Palliative Care, provided timely visits that were very important. The support was so meaningful for my sister and my family at a difficult time.
I also referred a colleague to the Counseling Program when she was faced with some personal challenges. She benefited greatly from the counseling and the subsidized rate of pay and was very grateful for the support she got from JFCS.
What is the most rewarding part of your involvement with JFCS?
Although I may not always be working in a direct way, my efforts help support the work of others and that is very rewarding. I know my contributions and committee and board participation are adding to the effectiveness of a great organization.
Anything else you would like to add?
JFCS is one of the most well-organized and -operated organizations that I have encountered. The programs, volunteer activities, finances, community involvement, and leadership are all exemplary.