It is not often that you come across philanthropists as active as Connie and Gail Siegel. Their support of the Jewish community spans multiple sectors, centuries, and countries.
Connie, an actuary, and Gail, who was in child development, met at the University of Wisconsin and spent the early years of their marriage in Toronto, Canada. After moving to Harrisburg in 1959, Gail and her friend, Barbara Adler, started a nonprofit program for child abuse prevention and parental education called the Children’s Playroom. Connie soon started his actuarial firm. Together, they began their family.
They were active in the community from the beginning. “When we came to this community, there were a lot of synagogues to choose from. The JCC was new. There were Hebrew schools,” says Gail. “There were all these wonderful Jewish programs.” Gail later began a program for seniors called Leisure Lounge, which has morphed into JFS. “I go back a long ways watching the organization develop. I was very proud when the Myndworks program began. But, there wouldn’t be JFS without Lois Grass.”
“We’ve always been good friends with Lois,” says Connie. “When she says ‘I’m taking an interest’, we usually go along.” Lois was instrumental in getting Connie involved as a board member, and later chairman, of the Greater Harrisburg Foundation, whose assets are now valued at more than $100 million.
“Gail and I give to organizations that do good,” says Connie.
One of the ways that the Siegels are helping to do good through JFS is through their support as founding donors (along with Morton and Alyce Spector and the Martin M. Sacks Fund of TFEC) of the Mental Health Initiative facilitated by Elaine Strokoff, which began in 2017 as a pilot program, and has helped dozens of community residents through direct intervention and referral services. “In the days of Al Hursh, word would come out about a Jewish person in need, and he would go find the money to help,” says Connie. “Now, we have this structure. It’s Jewish Family Service. It’s got a main office, a paid staff, and it’s a wonderful thing,”
When the Siegels heard the results of the program’s trial run, they were thoroughly impressed. “Barry and Elaine detailed all the good that has come from this program, and the people they’ve helped and how they’ve helped them,” says Gail. “And they told us of the people that are still waiting to be helped.”
The Siegels, along with the Spectors, were instrumental in drafting a letter that was sent to community members, asking each recipient for a $5000 gift to help to continue the program. “Besides asking people for money, we’re informing them about the program,” Gail continues. “If someone you know and respect sends you a letter, you say, ‘If they’re supporting that, it must be something that’s really needed in our community.’” Three months later, JFS has received enough commitments to keep the program going for the foreseeable future.
Connie and Gail both understand the importance of continuity. “As an actuary, I learned how to calculate the present value of an infinite series,” says Connie. “That’s what you do when you give money to a foundation that distributes its income forever.” Both have joined the Life and Legacy Program and are supporting JFS, among other organizations, through estate planning. “It’s important because long after you’re gone, your trust continues to distribute money. So that idea, of the Legacy program, was very important to us.”
“The Jewish community was here for us when we first moved to the community,” Gail explains. “We want it to be here for the next generation. Our goal with the Legacy program is to keep things going. We always feel that JFS serves a real need in our community. We want to see that it kept going.”
Please join the Siegel’s in leaving a legacy gift to JFS through your will, trust, retirement account or life insurance policy. Thank you to the Jewish Community Foundation for coordinating this important initiative on behalf of our community.