The Hebrew Bible credits King Solomon as the builder of the First Temple in Jerusalem. He has been described as the wisest of all men and one of the greatest leaders of the Jewish people. It’s fitting, then, that an Orange County organized male fellowship devoted to building community through social networking, planned events, and philanthropic investments has deemed itself the Solomon Society of Jewish Federation & Family Services.
“Through the Solomon Society, Jewish men in our community have the opportunity to fuel their passion for community-building and affirm their compassion for our people,” said Shalom Elcott, Jewish Federation’s CEO. “Every Jewish man in Orange County is encouraged to make a philanthropic investment in the Generations Fund in his own name as a statement of personal responsibility for Jews in need in our community and in Israel.”
The Generations Fund is part of the Solomon Society’s philanthropic features, which is explicitly geared towards helping people in need such as Jewish families in financial crises, Jewish children who may not otherwise be able to obtain a Jewish education or experience, and frail Jewish elders, many of whom live alone and are lonely. One of the Solomon Society’s requirements is that each member makes a minimum pledge of $1,000 to the Generations Fund.
The Solomon Society aims in part to help develop new friendships between men as well as to foster the growth of the Jewish community through social action events, missions to Israel, and social activities. The Society also provides opportunities for networking for members who are retired or currently engaged in a career. Some events that are slated to be held annually are the late spring recruitment event, an annual Fall “Late Night” men’s event, a wine and food cluster event, and a career roundtable for UCI students. The Society also holds a variety of cluster groups based on members’ interests, such as biking, hiking, current events, men’s health issues, and so on. A “tikkun troop” cluster is currently in the works, the purpose of which is to gather men together to perform mitzvoth within the community. Not only that, but the Solomon Society also sponsors Business Executive missions to Israel. For members who pledge $2,500 or more, there are even more programs to experience.
The upcoming annual Fall “Late Night” men’s event is planned for October 14 at Turnip Rose. A gala that the Society taglines as “Cocktails, Cuisine, & Comedy for a Cause,” the event will be catered by the well-renowned Blueberry Hill (with dietary laws taken into observation). It will also star the even more well-renowned Elon Gold, a comedian famous for his impersonation skills. Gold has also been a frequent guest on the Tonight Show, The Dana Carvey Show, and many Comedy Central roasts and specials. Having written and produced for television, Gold has also appeared as an actor in The Mentalist, Bones, Frasier, and Las Vegas. In addition, the gala will award the society’s first “Mensch of the Year Award” to Michael and David Stoll for their work as role models of leadership, Jewish values, inspiring countless men to become involved in community-building and substantial charitable investment. General admission to the event is $136, $300 for VIP Sponsors (which lands an “All the King’s Mensches” private reception with Mr. Gold). The event is open to every man who makes his own 2010 pledge of $1,000 or more to the Generations Fund.
In order to keep the Solomon Society multigenerational, a quality that serves as one of the organization’s core pillars, the Society does not have an age requirement or limit.
“A unique component of Solomon Society is that, in many cases, sons were asking their fathers to join them and become involved,” Elcott explained. “This is exemplified by the leadership of David Stoll and his son, Michael Stoll, who co-chair Solomon Society. Michael was the inspiration for Solomon Society as he recognized its opportunity to make a huge impact on our community. He approached his father, David, and asked him to involve his peers.”
As Elcott related Michael’s recollection of the Society’s inception, “it all started with a trip to Israel…We were a group of about 20 guys on the trip and we all developed a very strong bond with each other…Once we were back in Orange County, that connection continued, the men started organizing various events together and we wanted my dad’s generation to do the same thing.”
In an example of the improvement the Solomon Society seeks to instill in the community, Society member Terry McDonald was selected by Doris Jacobson, Jewish Federation’s director of community philanthropy, and Elcott to represent the Jewish Federation of Orange County in a July-to-August fact-finding mission to Haiti to witness firsthand how Jewish Federation partners are helping the earthquake victims. Led by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the mission was comprised of a dozen volunteers chosen from communities that raised over $20,000 in Haiti Emergency Relief. The cost of the trip, including airfare, was borne by the participants.
“Port au Prince is a very large city, and huge swaths are in rubble,” McDonald said of his experience on the mission. “The people are back to their daily lives, selling to one another, and sending their children to what schools are still standing. The people are frustrated that things are not happening faster, but they’ve endured a dysfunctional government for so many years, I think they are resigned to it.”
The JDC, in conjunction with organizations such as Magen David Adom and the International Medical Corps, is currently providing food to some 2,200 Haitian children; access to over 400,000 gallons of water through 80 water tanks on a daily basis; shelter kits containing a tent, tarp, hammer, nails, and other essentials to more than 1,250 displaced families; establishing two rehabilitations centers as well as providing world-class Israeli, American, and Haitian medical expertise, and more.
In response to the dire straits most Haitians are stuck in, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) – one of the on-site organizations involved in helping Haitian victims – allocated 50 percent of the funds raised by the Jewish Federations (over $5.4 million) during the first six months of the January quake to first line emergency needs. The rest of the funds will be used towards rebuilding efforts focusing on the needs of the region’s most vulnerable citizens, such as reconstruction and building new schools, helping to relocate displaced Haitians living in temporary camps, and aiding in physical and psycho-social rehabilitation.
Readers interested in more information on the JDC’s work in Haiti may find it at http://haitimissionjuly2010.blogspot.com.