When the world seems chaotic, Sean White finds solace by looking at a photo of his grandmother making matzah balls. This is Sean’s most treasured memory of Miriam Toubman, z
, who was beloved for running a kitchen in constant motion, always trying to weave the many threads of her family together.
Miriam,Toubman, z"l, pictured here circa
1990s making her famous matzah balls.
More than 30 years ago, the Toubmans began a tradition of family philanthropy to honor their father and grandfather, William, who passed away at age 52. The family tradition continued when they honored Miriam in 2010 by creating the Miriam Toubman Family Fund, a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) at the Foundation, after her passing in 2009. Recently, they renamed the fund to include William, and broadened its charitable goals to also reflect his passions and allow for combined decisions in grant-making (including organizations both William and Miriam might support).
Every year, the six siblings and extended family research topical local, national and international issues, exchange data-filled emails, talk in person and hold group calls to discuss how they will honor their parents with a charitable donation from the family fund. Those discussions also allow the siblings to share stories, and the values, of their parents with their younger children or grandchildren who did not know these inspiring ancestors.
A 49-year-old computer science professional, Sean was only 18 when his aunt and uncles, his parents and the extended family started including him in the family’s charitable discussions. “They never treated us as kids with a pat on the head,” says Sean. “They let me in on the conversations, they let me know that I was a partner in these decisions.” That’s why Sean is engaging his two pre-teen children in the conversations about honoring their great-grandparents’ values.
“We’re talking about the pandemic, and food insecurity and housing issues in education,” Sean explains. “How can this year’s donation tie together with the holistic well-being of students, so we can help students, both in high schools and colleges, better understand the world, and to learn and think as citizens?”
The family just decided on a Zoom call to give to Foodshare in Connecticut, recognizing that, without adequate food for people during this crisis, not much learning will happen.
Family members continue to contribute regularly to their DAF to grow it, so future generations can continue William and Miriam’s legacy. From this DAF, the family recently created the Miriam Toubman Scholarship Fund to honor Miriam’s passion for education.
Miriam never attended college due to a lack of family resources, but she was well read and proud of being Jewish, according to one of her sons, Sheldon Toubman. The scholarship is intended to support a promising Jewish female student with financial need.
William and Miriam’s legacy is a blessing that is still keeping everyone together even if they all can’t get together in person right now to share those memories – and Miriam’s matzah balls.