Taking care of family is everything for Suzanne and Brian Marcus. So it was a natural step for the couple to recently establish a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) for each of their adult children. They are deeply committed to ensuring a vibrant and secure Jewish future for their own family, and also their extended Jewish families in both San Diego and their country of birth, South Africa.

The Marcus’ have been on quite a journey. They thought they were just coming to America on vacation from Cape Town in 1977 – to tour national parks in a VW camper van. But they seized on opportunity and ended up staying for good. Brian was a civil engineer – demand for engineers in Texas was high because of the Oil Patch boom, so they moved to Dallas. Suzanne started a private practice as a psychologist.

After 19 years in Texas, the Marcus family – now with three school-aged daughters – felt California calling them. They moved to San Diego, which they saw as the city most like Cape Town in terms of outdoor activities and hiking. They became members of Congregation Adat Yeshurun in La Jolla and live nearby.

Their thinking on Jewish community and philanthropy had already evolved after they participated in a community mission to Israel while still living in Texas. Brian came away from the trip with a deepened resolve that it was vital for the Jewish community to care of each other and support one another. “You have to take care of your own family and take care of your local community so that others aren’t responsible for them.” It was both a matter of their values and what they consider their obligations as Jews.

In San Diego, the couple became involved with the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) in several different ways, including using a DAF as their vehicle to support all their philanthropic causes. They recognized the many benefits such as contributing appreciated securities with tax advantages, and the flexibility of the JCF services. “I loved the idea of a central repository for donations to be made – it sounded like a brilliant thing,” Brian says. The couple has now asked JCF to help involve their children in their philanthropy by, among other things, guiding them in their use of the newly created DAFs.

As current President of Congregation Adat Yeshurun, Brian is participating as a volunteer representative in the Endowment Leadership Institute (ELI), Create a Jewish Legacy program, hosted by JCF. The ELI program has resulted in over 1,300 individuals and families who have committed to including a Jewish organization in their charitable estates. An estimated $200 million dollars is anticipated in the future to ensure a vibrant Jewish community in San Diego, designated to many organizations including Congregation Adat Yeshurun. “Before ELI, we didn’t have a significant legacy program,” said Brian. “Creating an endowment and receiving the ongoing support and encouragement of the Foundation was very important and valuable for us.”

All these efforts align with their commitment to strengthen the Jewish community in San Diego. As President of Adat Yeshurun, Brian has been thinking hard how to grow Jewish institutions and attract younger Jews to San Diego, citing the kosher restaurants and centralized hubs of Jewish life in Los Angeles for comparison. And the family is already contributing the work – when youngest daughter Megan Marcus moved back to San Diego recently with her husband Jacob Kamaras, Jacob decided to assume the reigns of the San Diego Jewish World, a virtual platform from which he hopes to elevate the conversations around Jewish life in the region.

Marcus Family
Brian and Suzanne Marcus with their Grandchildren