Local Jewish community and Israel trip impact Harrells’ decision to be LIFE & LEGACY donors

August 10, 2018

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Amie and Byron Harrell do not seem like typical legacy donors. With two young sons and retirement still several decades away, they nevertheless felt compelled to help ensure the future of Tidewater’s Jewish community with a LIFE & LEGACY gift. Deeply committed to the Tidewater Jewish community, they came to this commitment through different paths.

Byron’s connection to Judaism is more traditional. He grew up enjoying the holidays with extended family and getting together for meals and celebrations. It was a special time, he recalls, as he was always his grandmother’s “hot date for the High Holy Days, going to services with her.” Growing up, Byron became a Bar Mitzvah at Congregation Beth El, while his family also belonged to Temple Israel and Ohef Sholom.

Amie, who is not Jewish, says she has grown to love the traditions and history over the past 17 years—primarily through Byron’s family with its gatherings and celebrations, as well as through community programs. “For example, I did the Mother’s Circle at Ohef Sholom Temple, where we learned Jewish holidays, beliefs, and traditions. It was a wonderful program so we could implement those in our homes to raise our children Jewish.” The couple participated in the Tidewater Couples Project and the Hineni Institute for Leadership with United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. “At the end of the program, we traveled to Israel and fell in love with the country. My journey has really just begun,” says Amie. It wasn’t the beautiful sight-seeing that made the trip so wonderful, she says, but rather the visits to the local communities and seeing where Tidewater’s dollars went to address poverty, disabilities, and more. “We saw children in need and their programs would be non-existent had the Tidewater community not stepped up.”

“Seeing little Hampton Roads…doing so much to help those overseas and in Israel…the impact was mind-blowing. This was very important in our decision to become legacy donors,” Byron says.

Byron feels the bond he shares with other Jews in the community is important to him, and is clear about how Judaism has informed the way he lives his life. “Judaism has taught me to be kind to others, and to be generous. It has taught me to teach my children these types of things in my everyday life. In my work life, Judaism has taught me to work hard, to be thoughtful in my process with my clients and work with the utmost integrity when I handle their financial affairs.”

When talking about philanthropy in their household, Amie says that right now they are focusing on gratitude, and not focusing on material things. “This goes hand in hand with the philanthropy we hope to pass on to our children. Giving back is important to our family. To give our children money doesn’t really click yet, but we start small and show them that we care beyond the walls of this house and these values will be intrinsic to them as they grow older.”

Although they are young to be legacy donors, they believe their commitment to LIFE & LEGACY will pay off later. “This will bear its fruit as we get older and it will play a role in our children’s lives after we pass. We want to create a legacy because the Jewish community has done a lot for us. Through wonderful programming we’ve made wonderful friends. This is our way of saying thank you.” As the years go by, Amie and Byron know this will help get their children and grandchildren involved and create a charitable generation in the future.

The Harrells decided to start their legacy giving with something they knew they could afford which was a percentage of their qualified accounts. They hope to build on it in the future. Byron explains, “We chose to leave our gift to the Tidewater Jewish Foundation (TJF) because I serve on the Investment Committee of TJF and I’m a recent board member. I see all the good TJF does and how they distribute the money. They are wonderful stewards of the money, growing the money conservatively to distribute it out for many generations to come.”

When asked what they hope for the future of the Jewish community, they are clear that they hope the great programming that they have been so fortunate to be a part of can continue and grow. “We hope the community continues to flourish. This community is so amazing to us. What we raise in Hampton Roads is impressive, and we hope we continue to do what we’re doing and raise even more money for all the causes we support.”

–Barb Gelb

For more information about the LIFE & LEGACY program, contact Barb Gelb at bgelb@ujft.org.

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