The Russel Family

Family philanthropy is “in the blood” admits Robert Russel when he thinks about giving back.

From the early days when both his and Irene’s parents were newly arrived in this country – Irene’s in the late 30s and his in 1947 – the value of tzedekah guided their lives.

It is these values, ingrained in young Robert and Irene, who watched their parents give whatever they could, that inspires them to pass down the traditions of giving to future generations.

Robert: Philanthropy started with my father. He always gave out of his pocket to charities.

Irene: We became close with several Russian families who immigrated to Baltimore from the former Soviet Union. And I recall seeing people down on their luck and thinking it wasn’t that long ago my parents had nothing. My parents came over with two trunks, a Shabbos lamp and some family silverware pieces.

Robert: I don’t think that when our parents arrived in this country they had any idea how financially successful their children would eventually be. We are very fortunate.

As a result of this good fortune, both Irene and I believe that it is our obligation to give back. We established an Annual Campaign Endowment and Irene’s Lion of Judah Endowment to help those in need and ensure a strong Jewish future for our children and grandchildren.

Becky: I’ll never forget. I had a checking account in college to cover a few monthly expenses and I remember my mother calling me one day. I think she was at an Associated phoning. And she said, ‘you know, you have a checkbook now, you should write a check to The Associated.’ And I said ‘okay.’ That’s how I got started.

I want to make sure that my children hold the same values dear that I’ve learned from my parents. So, every year, we collect loose coins and sometime after Thanksgiving and before Chanukah we add them all up. Our kids go through their piggy banks. Together, as a family, we decide which charities to donate to each year.

Irene: I want our children to appreciate the path we chose – to realize that it’s our responsibility to help others.

Becky: I hope my children will learn from their grandparents the importance of showing up. Hineni (Here I am).

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