Local Leaders Lauren and Seth Halpern Inspire Community with Leadership and Major Contribution to Generations Campaign
Shalom Austin’s Generations Campaign received a giant boost from Lauren and Seth Halpern with their involvement and moving the capital campaign even closer to the goal of raising $25 million to rebuild and renovate the Dell Jewish Community Campus. It has been 18 years since the Dell Jewish Community Campus opened to the public. During that time, membership has grown significantly stretching the campus’s resources and creating a wonderful problem, and that problem is the campus needs to grow rapidly to meet the needs of the burgeoning Jewish community. The Halperns see this need and were gracious enough to be interviewed by The Jewish Outlook on their vision.
1. How are you involved in the Jewish community in Austin? What inspired you to get involved?
Seth: My two main priorities recently have been a seat on the Shalom Austin Board as well as helping out with the Generations Campaign. This is an incredible time to be involved with Shalom Austin given the combination of a rapidly growing community, a new staff senior leadership team for the organization, and the opportunity to dramatically upgrade our already great campus via Generations Campaign.
Lauren: I just wrapped up four years on the Shalom Austin Women's Philanthropy cabinet and helping produce the IGNITE! Annual Campaign video. I'm trying to decide what I'll do next! Ever since moving to Austin, I've been involved. Working on campus helped me meet people and feel I could really make a difference, whether with the Early Childhood Program parent committee, Fall Fusion, Mosaic, etc. I always loved having a reason to come to the Dell Jewish Community Campus and help make our community stronger and the programming better.
2. Why are the Dell Jewish Community Campus and the Jewish Community Center important to you and your family?
Seth: There needs to be a strong central hub to serve as a catalyst to bring together members of the Jewish community and we're fortunate to have the campus we have. As a family, we take advantage of it in many ways—swimming laps in the pool, kicking the soccer ball on the fields, coming to Congregation Agudas Achim for services, Carly doing gymnastics with Kim's Gym, and taking advantage of a wide range of programming are some ways that come to mind.
Lauren: To me, the campus is a beacon. Everything is here—our pre-school, synagogue, my volunteer opportunities, my kid's afterschool activities and summer camps, the swimming pool where I do laps a few times a week. I think we're so lucky as a community to have a place to call our own. We moved from Steiner Ranch to Northwest Hills to be closer to the campus.
3. Describe your background with the Jewish community in Texas.
Lauren: JCC summer day and sleep away camps were my intro to American Jewish life when my family moved to this country from South Africa. I was six and the JCC introduced me to my two childhood best friends, a staple of Jewish songs and traditions that made me feel like I "fit in" as an American kid. As a teen I was involved in San Antonio's Ruach BBG chapter.
4. Describe your family’s involvement with the JCC in San Antonio, and how does it inspire you?
Lauren: I watched my parents engage in the San Antonio Jewish community in fundraising and leadership growing up. It seemed natural to follow in their footsteps.
5. What inspired you to make a major contribution to the Generations Campaign?
Seth: We've seen many people in the generations ahead of us give generously over the years. We wanted to do our part in this campaign. Additionally, we see Austin as our long-term home and we want there to be a strong foundation for Jewish life for our family and other Jewish families in Austin.
Lauren: We noticed that most of our friends who are five to 20 years older than us had given to the first round of construction in the late 90s. I had an "aha" moment at a dinner with one of those couples a few years ago when I realized, "Oh! It's our turn! We need to step up!"
6. Which aspects of the Generations Campaign excite you the most?
Seth: I like the picture of Shalom Austin as a third place besides home and work. Potential elements like a cafe, a central lobby, a family water park, upgraded fitness center, and tennis courts will create an environment where Jewish individuals and families can come and stay on the campus for more than just a quick visit.
Lauren: I love the idea of a cafe where I can meet friends and colleagues after exercising or after school drop off. The neighborhood Starbucks always made me laugh—I could meet someone there but have five other side conversations while waiting in line. Wouldn't it be nice to have that right here, on campus? I'd also love tennis courts. It would be fun to pick up a racket again.
7. Where would you like to see the Jewish community a decade from now?
Seth: Ideally Shalom Austin can give every Jew in Austin a reason to spend time on the campus - to enjoy themselves, engage with each other, and build a strong sense of community.
Lauren: Bustling! I love the feeling of a busy day on the Shalom Austin campus—summer campers or ECP kids in the hallways and on the playground, people exercising in the fitness center and swimming in the pool, people coming in and out of meetings and programs. I know Generations will give more people a reason to come to our new and improved campus. I hope that means more vibrancy in our hallways and on our outdoor spaces in a decade!
8. What would you say to someone interested in getting involved or contributing to the Generations Campaign?
Seth: Now is the time. We're getting very close with $20 million committed against the $25 million goal. Stretch yourself in terms of the amount you give—the impact on Shalom Austin will be great. And help bring others into the discussion about the Generations Campaign. Harriett Kirsh Pozen, Generations Campaign Director at Shalom Austin is a great starting point who can help you begin a conversation about Generations.
Lauren: It's up to us! L'dor va’dor. From generation to generation. Others built this gorgeous campus for us 20 years ago. Now it's our turn to update it and to maintain it for our kids and grandkids.
For more information about the Generations Campaign or to donate, contact Harriett Kirsh Pozen at firstname.lastname@example.org, (512) 735-8076 or visit shalomaustin.org/generations.