When I first met Allan Fainbarg in 2004 it was at the final end of a long discussion which was part of the process concerning my relocation from Israel to Orange County. It took place with another one of our pioneering icons Arnold Feuerstein at the Mongolian BBQ in Newport Beach—a favorite restaurant of both (for $7.99 you could get all you can eat). As I sat with the two of them I realized that the Orange County Jewish Community had two philanthropists who had a keen awareness of the community’s needs and a business-like intuition of how to invest philanthropic dollars wisely while inspiring others to give.
At the time, the Samueli Jewish Campus was under construction and the vision of Allan Fainbarg and Arnold Feuerstein went far beyond the Merage JCC buildings, and deep into servicing a wide cross section of Jewish communal needs in Orange County. I was sold.
It wasn’t long before I was participating in countless meetings with organizations including the Jewish Community Foundation, TVT, Heritage Pointe, Merage JCC, Jewish Family Services, Bureau of Jewish Education, Hebrew Academy and Morasha Jewish day school. Allan was an investor in all of them and he took a personal interest in their success. He showed up to meetings—was the first to write a check—always leading by example.
Allan’s son-in-law, Irv Chase, told a great story about Allan at the memorial. A construction manager of one of the projects used to see this short man come to the job site daily, helping himself to donuts. One day the worker came by the office to receive his check and he saw the older man and asked, “Who is that man?” Chase replied, “That’s the man who signs your checks.” The worker said, “Oh I thought he was homeless and just getting a free breakfast.” That was Allan Fainbarg, unassuming and humble, he never needed special treatment.
I will never forget telling my staff about how he went to the same barber for years. One day his barber talked to him about his financial troubles and how the mortgage was too much for him to pay. At that exact moment Allan walked out to his car and wrote a check to pay off his mortgage.
When I was at Sandy’s before the funeral, I said there are going to be hundreds of people at his memorial because he touched so many lives. The gardener, the pharmacist, the construction worker, the caretaker and the doctors—those were Allan’s people! And those were the people at the memorial. The number of jobs he saved and scholarships given (no matter big or small) is astounding. Rob Friedman, chairman and co-founder of Auction.com, LLC, the nation’s leading online real estate marketplace, leaned into me at the memorial and said he would not be where he is today if it was not for Allan.
The most important thing that he left to the Jewish Community was a family and generations of Jewish leadership in Orange County—and he understood the importance of that. That is why he invested in the JCC, Next Gen, Skillset leadership programs and Jewish Family Services. His daughter, Nancy Chase sits on the Family Services Advisory Committee because of her passion to help people, his son Steven Fainbarg is co-chair of JFFS’ Connect 2 Israel Committee, Irv Chase loves to support anything that helps young Jewish people get together, and his grandson Ryan is involved in Next Gen and Shalom Family. This is the legacy of Allan Fainbarg l’dor v’dor… From generation to generation.
Shalom Elcott is the President and CEO of Jewish Federation & Family Services. He lives in Irvine with his wife Robin. They have four children and two grandsons.