- Meet Our Leaders
Bob joined JFCS’ Board in 2014 with great enthusiasm. Since 1999 he has been an active volunteer in the Jewish community—putting his values into practice, and sharing his passion for helping those in need. He says, his favorite sentence is, ‘How can I help?’”
Tell us a bit about the community where you grew up.
My Father and his parents fled Vienna in 1940. Arriving at Ellis Island they were given the choice of moving to St. Louis or San Francisco. They chose St. Louis because it was closer to the East Coast. I moved to San Francisco in 1977 and finished the journey!
Growing up in St. Louis, my family was fairly assimilated, and we weren’t actively involved in the Jewish community. In 1999, my wife, Valli, was recruited to the Leadership Program of the Wexner Heritage Foundation; being a “Wexner spouse” brought me to Judaism. Learning Jewish history and values was a transformative experience for both of us. Since that time Valli and I have been actively involved with many Jewish organizations, and it has changed both of our lives for the better.
What prompted your interest in human services?
A number of years ago I went to a talk by Sheryl Sandberg, which focused on the distinction between charity and philanthropy. Although we had been involved in giving for many years, her words encouraged me to focus my volunteer time and efforts on need—hunger, poverty, illness, and those in our community who are the most vulnerable. I sought out JFCS after I heard that talk because it’s the organization that is doing the best work helping the underserved in the Bay Area.
Has JFCS helped you or have you used the services in some way?
Yes, I have consulted with Seniors At Home a number of times regarding the care of my aging parents. They live independently and the staff has been very thoughtful and supportive.
What is the most rewarding part of your involvement with JFCS?
The incredibly talented team of staff and volunteers. I came through JFCS’ doors also wanting to work with Dr. Anita Friedman, JFCS’ Executive Director, because she has built an incredible team and that is something I can appreciate. A big focus of my career has been building successful teams and working together to solve problems and get results, first in Law, then in the apparel manufacturing business and now in real estate.
At JFCS, “results” means helping those in our community in need receive services in order to get back on their feet. I enjoy sharing my passion for the organization with others in the community.
Tell us about your family.
My wife, Valli Benesch, and I have been married for 32 years. We have two wonderful adult daughters, Michelle and Jacqueline who, much to our delight, are both in the Bay Area and doing great!
Often times you hear people say, “Those who can, should give back.” Our family philosophy has always been, “Those who can, MUST.”
Tell us about your hobbies and interests.
My wife and I have been in business together for over 30 years and we currently work in real estate investment, development and management. In addition to being a JFCS Board Director, I’m on the Board of Directors of the Hebrew Free Loan of San Francisco, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and a member of the Medallion Committee of the San Francisco Opera. In my free time I’m an avid open water swimmer, hiker, traveler and opera, theater and arts lover.
Anything you would like to add?
We are lucky to have JFCS in our community, the need is great and I’m honored to serve.