When looking up the word mensch, don’t be surprised if the definition is accompanied by a picture of Scott & Leslie Seigel. Five years ago, Scott stepped into his role of TBY President, created the Distinguished Speaker Series, and made it his mission to see TBY as the epicenter of Jewish Life in Orange County.
But it wasn’t always that way. Scott and Leslie joined TBY in 1999 with their children, Ashley and Josh. According to Scott, “in 2003, I was a fairly disengaged TBY Member. My wife, Leslie, and I were those programmatic parents who just get caught up in life. We were Jewish. We would drop off our kids at Sunday school like dry cleaning, and we would ask the education team to teach our kids Judaism, ask our Cantor Grant to turn them into Jewish American Idols for their B’nai Mitzvah, and ask Rabbi Miller to do the heavy Jewish lifting and truly move them into becoming articulate meaningful Jewish Adults.” It wasn’t until Scott accompanied Rabbi Miller to Israel in 2011 that his path towards leadership at TBY began. “The Israel experience was truly amazing, and it launched me into a path of reconnecting with Judaism, and so, I began my spiritual, education and social reconnections to Temple Bat Yahm.”
When summarizing the impact Scott and Leslie have had on TBY in the last few years, Rabbi Zylberman waxes about the “dynamic duo of good humor, passion, compassion and commitment”. He points out how “Scott has brought his can-do spirit to further our mission as a warm, welcoming and vibrant Jewish community.” Rabbi Zylberman continues saying “Leslie’s encouragement and support have been instrumental in magnifying the impact that Scott has had on the TBY community and the broader Jewish and general communities through his various leadership roles.”
Besides being one of the most influential leaders at TBY, Scott and Leslie have been a major supporter of the Orange County Jewish community at large. TBY’s Leona Aronoff-Sadacca said, “Leslie and Scott have used their strong and successful business acumen to further their love for Jewish causes. Their generosity with their time and treasure ranges from TBY, Heritage Pointe, Solomon Society, and City of Hope just to name a few.” Doris Jacobson, Director of Community Philanthropy for Jewish Federation and Family Services agrees, “Scott and Leslie are committed to making a difference in our Jewish community and to enhancing its growth. Working in partnership and supporting each other’s efforts, they are role models and leaders. Their kindness, caring for others, and their giving of tzedakah represent the highest of Jewish values.” Beth Slavin, Director of Philanthropy at Heritage Pointe noted, “Scott and Leslie are the quintessential American Jewish philanthropists of the modern era. Their ability to see beyond, with the capacity to understand feelings with a deeper connection is a platform for many organizations to embody.”
Beyond the Orange County Jewish community, Scott and Leslie are also champions for Israel. Dear friend and conservative political pundit Dennis Prager praised the Seigel’s as “precisely the type of people who has made America great—and who has enabled Israel to stay strong. Every one of us touched by their lives is the better for it.”
While Scott and Leslie have impressed our community, it was not without hard work. In the mid-1980’s Scott was given an opportunity to join California Closets as a franchising owner, before he had graduated from college. Scott and Leslie were married in 1985 and by 1991, they bought out Scott’s partner and expanded their business to include showrooms in Corona Del Mar, Huntington Beach, Pasadena, and Palm Desert with over 150 employees across Southern California. They have won the prestigious Franchise of the Year Award several times and are often recognized for their dedication to their work as well as their philanthropic endeavors.
For Leslie, “TBY is an inclusive community for all people. This fulfills my desire to perform the mitzvah of tikkun olam. Collectively, we constantly strive to educate and look for real, impactful ways to improve the lives of those in our community by supporting Temple Bat Yahm as well as Heritage Pointe, Los Angeles Holocaust Museum, Dress for Success, FIDF, and City of Hope. This allows us to connect in a deeper way to our Judaism.” Scott has said, “in life, I have discovered that while there have been significant external obstacles and the true roadblocks in our lives, the biggest challenges lie within. Noticing if you are on the right path, making the necessary corrections, and ultimately experimenting fearlessly. We are the storytellers of our own lives. We can create a legend or not.”
This coming February, Temple Bat Yahm is proud to honor Scott and Leslie for the legends that they are—champion of TBY. “An evening of good food and good fun is the perfect way to honor Scott and Leslie,” shared Debbie Margolis, Comedic Affair Chair. You might be thinking “another year… another gala,” but not quite… What if you don’t need to buy a new gown, sit through another formal dinner, and dance? What if you could wear jeans instead of a tuxedo or enjoy LA deli instead of a sit-down dinner while laughing through an evening of comedy by one of our local greats?
This year TBY will have a different kind of party. We are honoring Scott and Leslie with a comedic affair featuring Elon Gold that will offer a fun and casual evening of delicious food, wonderful friends and laughter.
HILARY ROSEN is a contributing writer to Jlife magazine.