- Meet Our Leaders
For generations Deborah Hoffman’s family has contributed to the growth of JFCS, and now she is taking her turn. Always energetic and extremely generous with her time, Debbie is making an impact on the JFCS Board of Directors and is also a committed member of the Loans and Grants, Program and Planning, North Peninsula Development, Fammy Gala, and Endowment Committees. With such a strong family legacy of giving coupled with a willingness to dive in to any new project, Debbie says, “I think of philanthropy like breathing; you just do it naturally.”
Tell us a bit about the community where you grew up and your background.
I’m a third generation San Franciscan. My family belonged to Congregation Emanu-El and I participated in the Jewish Community Center’s summer camp and loved my time as a counselor. I was also very involved in BBYO as well as our temple’s teen Jewish leadership and service learning program and I traveled to Israel with my confirmation class.
As a young professional I founded the San Francisco chapter of Women’s American Ort (now ORT America), where we inspired other young working women to raise funds to support schools and vocational training programs in Israel and around the world.
How did you first get involved with JFCS?
My family and JFCS have a long history together. My grandfather, Eric Livingston, was on the JFCS Board of Directors. He played an essential role in starting JFCS’ first social enterprise program, called Utility Workshop, in 1943—a program where newly arrived refugees could earn a modest wage while looking for more permanent employment, and a predecessor to JFCS’ successful Cleanerific program.
Eric and my grandmother, Greta, were married for 73 years and were both Holocaust survivors who took pride in helping their community after settling in the United States. They were the first generation in my family to establish a JFCS named fund.
My direct involvement with JFCS began decades ago when my mother, Vera Stein, took her seat on the Board of Directors. I attended the Fammy Gala each year, and after I was married I continued to attend with my husband, Craig.
My mother would tell me about her work on the Board and my parents created the Vera and Harold Stein Jr. Endowment Fund for Palliative and End of Life Care in celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary.
Eventually I began participating on JFCS committees on my own, but I wanted to get a deeper understanding of the organization. It was a natural progression from there—when I was asked to join the board two years ago I was thrilled! My role fuels my natural inclination to serve those in need.
How did you get involved in philanthropy?
Even as a child I was passionate about giving to causes that I believed in. I was an aspiring artist at the time and I would host “shows” in my house and donate the proceeds from my pen and ink drawings and sculptures to Mt. Zion Hospital. It was a lot of fun and very rewarding to see what I could do to help others through tikkun olam.
Has JFCS helped you or have you used its services in some way?
Yes, my family has employed JFCS’ Seniors At Home for help with caregiving for our grandmother, aunt, and uncle when they have needed extra support in their later years. My uncle lived at Rhoda Goldman Plaza, JFCS’ partner for assisted living, and we have also been touched by JFCS’ incredible Palliative Care Program.
A number of years ago one of my employees passed away unexpectedly at my family’s former company and I requested that Rabbi Daniel Isaacson, JFCS’ Director of Spiritual Care Services, facilitate a voluntary grief support group for those touched by the loss. Rabbi Isaacson was able to help people heal from their deep grief—more than I even expected. JFCS’ Bereavement Counseling Services are an amazing resource!
When my children were younger our family volunteered during the high holidays, taking part in JFCS’ events that serve meals to those in need. And when my daughter, Jessia, was attending Stanford she was awarded a grant through the university to work at JFCS as the Assistant Intern Director over her summer break. She came away with news skills and a deeper understanding of how the agency builds a stronger community for all of us.
What is the most rewarding part of your involvement with JFCS?
I find it very gratifying to know there are so many different programs that JFCS offers to the community—40 programs! Whether it’s infant adoption, children getting help with social or learning problems, senior care, the JFCS Food Pantry … what JFCS offers is amazing and the quality unparalleled.
Craig and I are also deeply committed to helping those who have experienced domestic violence and we support JFCS’ Family Violence Services so that survivors and their families can stay out of homelessness and move on to live healthy and happy lives. We created the Deborah and Craig Hoffman Family Endowment Fund for this purpose.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Nobody has to tell me to do this work with JFCS. It just makes me feel good!