- Meet Our Leaders
Robert Blum credits his father, a Holocaust survivor, for his focus on the Jewish value of tikkun olam in his business and personal endeavors. A biopharmaceutical business leader, Robert is President and Chief Executive Officer of Cytokinetics, and he is a highly respected community member and passionate advocate for JFCS. As a member of the JFCS Board of Directors, Robert serves on the Major Gifts and Special Events Subcommittees, and sits on the JFCS Holocaust Center Advisory Council. He and his wife, Dana, also co-chaired this year’s wildly successful Fammy Awards Gala. He says, “JFCS is authentic in its Jewish values of selfless giving, helping the vulnerable, and respect for human kindness. It’s an organization that walks the walk.”
Tell us a bit about the community where you grew up and your background.
I grew up in Asheville, North Carolina as a first-generation Southerner. My parents built a household grounded in gratitude and generosity. They were very involved in our Jewish community and set an example for my siblings and me on what should matter most in life, including healing the world by serving others.
My father’s experiences in the war and his Holocaust story shaped his life and had a profound influence on him—and me. He was a very giving and optimistic person and his example of perseverance had a dramatic impact on who I wanted to be and who I am today.
How did you first get involved with JFCS?
My wife and I were living in San Francisco in the early 1990s and she became a volunteer for JFCS’ Senior Services program, now Seniors At Home. After we had our children we turned to JFCS’ Parents Place to help us find a childcare provider and we benefited from a number of parent educational programs. As our children grew older they participated in Holocaust education and awareness programs and volunteered in the social service programs.
Has JFCS helped you or have you used the services in some way?
Yes, I never knew how impactful JFCS’ senior services were until a distant family relative with dementia was in crisis. On my first call to inquire about how JFCS might be able to assist, I was asked, “What can we do to help?” The services she received were almost instantaneous—care management, a dementia specialist, a caregiver, fiduciary services, and a place to live comfortably at Rhoda Goldman Plaza. The Seniors At Home team was incredible, and if not for JFCS, she would probably have been lost to the streets.
What motivated you to join the Board?
In large part I joined because I had been continually impressed and inspired by the work of the agency. My wife and I have served on nearly every board in the Jewish community, and I respect how much JFCS does and how it does it. The executive director, Anita, and the staff manage the affairs of the organization with fiscal responsibility, good governance, and proper leadership and oversight. It is a very well-managed organization, and I don’t know another organization that could fill the void in our community.
Is there a JFCS project that you find especially inspiring?
The JFCS Holocaust Center and its program, The Next Chapter Project, stands out for me. I think it is extraordinary that the program connects local survivors with high school students to ensure that their stories are documented. Growing up hearing my father’s story was so important for me, so I know how meaningful and impressionable these kind of experiences can be and how they can shape young lives. Both of our daughters, Brittany and Bridget, took part in The Next Chapter Project when they were teenagers and it was quite meaningful to them. It is up to this next generation to participate and support organizations like JFCS in order to pay forward their part in caring for our community.
I’m also concerned with the increasing trends in Holocaust denial, coupled with the fact that our survivors are passing on. My wife and I recently established the Dana and Robert Blum Family Fund for Holocaust Survivor Services to help care for them, often the most vulnerable people in our community. Given how much they have already sacrificed, we have a duty to attend to their care.
Anything else you would like to add?
My father’s story is one of luck and good fortune—it’s a blessing that he survived at all. My take-away from his life is that we all bear a responsibility to recognize what a gift our life is and give back in every way we can to serve our community.