Portland’s Jewish community meant the world to Cookie and Merritt Yoelin z”l. During their lives, they both were involved with numerous Jewish organizations including OJCF, Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Congregation Neveh Shalom, Jewish Family & Child Service and National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW).
Cookie passed away in 1999 and Merritt passed in 2012. Merritt’s estate plan established the Merritt and Cookie Yoelin Fund of OJCF that continues to provide annual support to our community’s organizations. “The desire to be deeply involved in the Jewish community and to help others get involved was ingrained in my parents,” says Amara Norman, Cookie and Merritt’s daughter. “All they ever wanted was to make things beautiful and to help good people give back. And it was because of their love, for each other and for our community, that they sparkled.”
Robert “Bob” Weil z”l, an Oregon native and real estate developer, was as passionate about his charitable giving as he was about his businesses or catching the largest fish. His daughters, Sharon, Dana and Marlene, recall him being a “larger than life” figure who always had a soft spot for the underdog. Sharon remembers him as “a man who loved humanity in general and who was always thinking ahead of the game.”
“He was philanthropically minded and gracious with people,” remarks Dana. “Underneath the business-oriented demeanor, my father had a tender heart, and his gift to OJCF and the community was an extension of his character.” The Robert Weil Fund of OJCF ensures that Bob’s memory, along with his values of generosity and philanthropy, will continue to live on and provide for our community for years to come.
Leah Spellman z”l spent the better part of her life in Portland. She was a graduate of Lincoln High School and Behnke Walker Business College. Leah had a strong affinity for business and labor arbitration and her commitment to her Jewish heritage never wavered. She was particularly devoted to Robison Home, where she was a dedicated volunteer. She was also one of the first residents of Rose Schnitzer Manor, signing up before the project broke ground.
Leah’s deep connection to Robison grew when she witnessed the wonderful treatment her sister Sarah, a long-time resident, received while living there. Leaving a legacy gift was very important to Leah and upon her death an endowment was created that will continue to support Robison Home and Rose Schnitzer Manor in perpetuity.
Lois and Gerry Poplack’s z”l family histories reach back to the Jewish communities of Latvia, Lithuania and the region then known as the Austro-Hungarian empire. From these distant parts of the world, their families brought to Portland the Jewish traditions of lighting the Sabbath candles and sharing Passover Seders and joyous Hanukkah celebrations.
“Like my parents in their time, I’ve always been involved in Jewish life in Portland. My father was the president of the board of directors at Cedar Sinai Park, and I attended the religious school at Congregation Beth Israel,” Lois shared with OJCF back in 2010. “We viewed Temple and Cedar Sinai as two especially important organizations and we were fortunate to be able to help contribute to their good work. Giving to our Jewish community was just part of our family life.”
Portland native Charles (Chuck) Karsun z”l was best known in life as a musician and entertainer with the Chuck Karsun Orchestra. He was the son of loving parents who instilled in him a dedication to tzedakah. His longtime friend and attorney, Marv Nepom z”l once shared, “Chuck knew exactly what he wanted to do with his estate and he wanted to make sure that his support would continue in perpetuity. He loved his Jewish community, performing for audiences with his orchestra, and giving back to others through support of the Jewish Senior Citizens Club, and his volunteer work at the Robison Jewish Home.”
The Chuck Karsun Memorial Fund of OJCF, created with a bequest in Chuck’s will, continues to make annual distributions to support community organizations, including Jewish Family & Child Service, Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Jewish National Fund, OJCF, Portland Jewish Academy and Congregation Shaarie Torah.
Long-time Congregation Beth Israel member and employee Joy Alkalay z”l passed away in 2014. It was after her death that the congregation learned that Joy had generously left a legacy gift to create a permanent endowment fund at OJCF to support Congregation Beth Israel, Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and Jewish Federations of North America for support of the State of Israel.
According to Joy’s dear friend Pierce Ethier, “She was one of a kind. Joy was an incredibly strong willed person. And she was very proud to not only be a Jew but a supporter of Israel. And, she wanted to support our local community, as evidenced by her legacy gift.”