By Richard Planto, written from remarks delivered at the 98th Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio
I remember the first time that we met. It was at Green, you know how much I enjoyed our lunches with a vegetarian menu! I knew right away you were the Jewish professional that we needed to lead our Federation back to prominence.
Over the past six years you have made a lasting impact on the San Antonio Jewish and secular communities. I would like to share just some of the accomplishments that have come to fruition through your leadership, and you and your staff’s hard work.
Ronit developed a relationship with a philanthropist in Boerne, who joint funded a program for two years, with the Federation, that sent non-Jewish high school students through a Holocaust study program. This program consisted of weeks of study before the group participated in a trip to Europe, so they could have a first-hand experience where the Holocaust actually took place. Many of us have had the opportunity to listen and learn from these students, as they relayed their experiences.
Ronit cultivated a local PJ Library program, in partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, including monthly programs and enriching events, led by Lauren Abraham. Together, Lauren and Ronit have grown the number of subscriptions delivered to families from around 275 to currently over 475. I want to thank Lauren for her hard work and wish her and Jeffrey all the best in St. Louis as well.
Ronit assembled a team of professionals focused on Jewish leadership and engagement in our community through programs like the Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Community Relations Council, Women’s Philanthropy, Maimonides, and the Young Adult Division, among others.
Ronit brought our community together for the Jewish community’s Tricentennial event in 2018. This outdoor festival brought over 1,000 guests out in one day to enjoy Israeli-American cuisine, bands and dancing, while experiencing an exhibit showcasing the 300 years of Jewish history in San Antonio. The Shin-Dig was the work of many leaders and volunteers and Ronit brought the idea to fruition with her team.
Ronit led a community-wide assessment of needs and annual campaigns to support Jewish agencies and synagogues, including campaigns for issues here at home, around the nation, and in Israel. The most recent was the Community Crisis Campaign addressing needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which raised over $500,000. Each dollar is going to Jewish agencies and synagogues to support the community.
In 2016, I am proud to say, Ronit was recognized by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce with their Promise Award. This award was presented at their Tribute to Women Business Leaders luncheon and I was proud to be in attendance when she received the award; it was a beautiful event.
Six years ago when Ronit arrived, we had many items on our to-do list, two of those stand out to me. In our first meeting together, Ronit and I discussed the importance to our community of growing Holocaust Memorial Museum programs, and secondly we discussed the huge need to create an on-going Planned Giving Program, that will build endowment for all of our Jewish agencies and houses of worship.
In 2016 and 2018, we held the first two benefits to raise money for our Holocaust Memorial Museum. We filled the rooms each time and had first-class speakers. Most importantly, we raised much needed funds for our Holocaust Memorial Museum and increased awareness in the non-Jewish community of our museum. Depending on what happens with the pandemic, we will have our third benefit this fall. The additional funds assist in making sure that our museum is fully staffed. The funds also allow us to increase the hours the museum is open to the public, and makes funding available to increase the scope of education to our community and beyond.
The second topic of conversation in our meeting was the importance of growing an endowment, not only for the Jewish Federation, but also a program that assists all of our Jewish agencies and synagogues. Growing their endowments assures the continuity of our Jewish community for our children and grandchildren. In 2018 Ronit hired Beth Keough to be the Director of LIFE & LEGACY, another partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. In San Antonio, the LIFE & LEGACY program brings together eleven Jewish community partners with a single goal of growing endowment funds. Ronit and Beth started the program on February 1, 2019, and as of today the LIFE & LEGACY Partners have secured 279 letters of interest, which exceeded our community goal of 180. The estimated value of after life gifts is over 7 million dollars for our community.
In addition to being a Lion of Judah, Ronit has led by example by creating her own endowment for the Federation through a gift of life insurance. In the fall of 2019, Ronit made another commitment to strengthen the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies of San Antonio, with the establishment of the Endowment and Trust Committee.
There is no doubt in my mind that Ronit has made a lasting legacy on the future of the San Antonio Jewish Community.
I personally want to thank Ronit for being a mentor, a sounding board, and most importantly a friend. No matter where you are, you will be successful. I want you to know how proud I am of you, and how much I have enjoyed being your partner in working with our passion, the Jewish community.
On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio, we thank Ronit for six years of leadership and service to the San Antonio community. We extend those thanks to you, the donors and volunteers for your support during Ronit’s tenure. We sincerely appreciate your participation, leadership, and philanthropic investment in our San Antonio Jewish community.