- Donor Stories
A leading pioneer in the software industry, Eugene Fooksman (founding developer at WhatsApp) is no stranger to paving the way to change. Looking to use his innovative vision and bold leadership to create positive social change, Eugene founded the Fooksman Family Foundation in 2018 to support the state of Israel and the continuity of the Jewish community.
Originally from Russia, Eugene and his family were resettled by JFCS when they immigrated to the US over 20 years ago. Eugene’s deep connection to JFCS and commitment to strengthening the Jewish community came full circle this year, when the Fooksman Family Foundation made a generous donation to JFCS’ Community Emergency Fund—leading the way in supporting people impacted by COVID-19.
We asked Eugene, who lives in Silicon Valley and has two young children, to share his philanthropic vision.
Where is your family from and how old were you when you came to the US?
I grew up in St Petersburg, Russia, where my parents worked as a civil engineer and a molecular scientist. I moved to the US with my family as a young adult at the age of 23.
What memories stand out for you when you think about being resettled by JFCS?
I’m grateful for the very needed help JFCS provides to Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants dealing with government agencies and adjusting to life in the US. I remember driving to San Francisco to attend sessions about applying for Green Cards, which was a huge help to my family when we came here.
What motivates you to be philanthropic, and what would you like to see in the Russian-speaking Jewish (RSJ) community around philanthropy?
Philanthropy is a fundamental part of Jewish identity and our system of values. The most important Jewish achievements throughout the centuries—like religious and scholarly advancements, civil and communal progress, preservation of Jewish values and identity, Zionist ideas, establishing and flourishing of the State of Israel—all of it has been heavily supported by and often reliant on Jewish philanthropy.
This list also proudly includes the efforts of the American Jewish community in helping Soviet Jewry break through the Iron Curtain and settle in Israel and the US. I am greatly inspired by more and more of my fellow RSJ immigrants getting involved with philanthropic giving and rediscovering the new depths of their Jewishness along the way.
You decided to specifically shift your giving towards addressing the pandemic during this time. Why did you decide to give to JFCS?
JFCS has been the center of Jewish community life in San Francisco and the Bay Area for many years. We felt that with its experience, reach, and involvement with a large Jewish community in all its diversity, JFCS is best positioned to make sure the relief funds are applied where needed most and to do it with professionalism and compassion.