The sun was shining, and a gentle breeze was blowing off the Back Bay. It was a perfect day for Blossom Siegel, one of the Orange County Jewish community’s most generous and dedicated people, to celebrate her 80th birthday with 50 or 60 of her closest friends – women who have influenced her life, she said.
On behalf of the women who attended and the many other lives Blossom Siegel has touched, I’m here to return the compliment. I want to repeat the words of Cantor Marcia Tilchin of Congregation B’nai Israel, who called Siegel an aishet chayil, a woman of valor who opens her mouth and has Torah on her tongue. Blossom Siegel is someone who embraces a diverse group of people as friends and colleagues, makes everyone feel valued and gives so much back. Her approach to life is both elegant and no-nonsense, and she takes a hands-on approach to championing causes that are important to her. Her enthusiasm, creativity and ability to set an example bring people aboard and keep them involved.
A longtime Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS) supporter, board member and past president, Siegel has energetically devoted herself to the broad range of Jewish service organizations that have been established and developed in the community. She received her first call from Super Sunday in Orange County about 30 years ago and became a major donor to the annual campaign and a sponsor of numerous special appeals. While she has been a pillar of the local Jewish community, her great passion is Israel.
A mission to Israel changed her life and made her an avid Zionist. She has made 30 trips to Israel in the last 20 years. She is devoted to Partnership 2000, which links Israeli and American communities, and is hands-on involved with JFFS’s partnership city of Kiryat Malachi in Israel. A pioneer of pro-Israel education in OC and beyond, Siegel has sat on JFFS’ Connect 2 Israel Committee for more than a decade, overseeing the organization’s grants and projects in Israel, including bomb shelter renovation. She has been a national leader on the JFNA Israel and Overseas Committee and has co-chaired Israel Expo since 2011. In 2003, she co-founded “Israel Up Close,” which produces news segments providing an objective and holistic view of Israel. The programs are broadcast on TV networks worldwide, reaching more than 500 million people and are translated into Arabic, Russian, Spanish and Mandarin. IUC has been instrumental in shaping the mindset about Israel on a global scale.
One of Siegel’s greatest legacies, according to her son, Seth, is the Young Leadership Division of JFFS. While some people failed to see the wisdom of putting a great deal of effort into getting young people involved in the community, Siegel was adamant about building for the future. Today, YLD is strong and growing, and Siegel’s house is still the site of one of its popular annual events. A new generation has learned something about tzedakah, thanks to someone who lives and breathes the concept – Blossom Siegel.