Susan Lewis honored; announces $1 million challenge grant
A packed house joined The Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network’s Grand Circle of Women in honoring Susan Brown Lewis with its Dove Award for her commitment to the agency and her family’s generosity in being the catalyst for a $5 million endowment campaign. The campaign, which became fully funded in August 2014, has been extended by the Lewis family in the form of a $1 million challenge grant to raise another $5 million.
From the May 21 edition of the Detroit Jewish News. by Barbara Lewis
Susan Brown Lewis and her husband, Bart, are modest people. They have just given a second $1 million challenge gift to the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network (JHCN), but they want the focus to be on the organization and its services, not on them.
David Techner, JHCN president, announced the Lewis’ gift May 5 at the end of a program at the Berman Center hosted by the Grand Circle of Women, a JHCN support group. Andi Wolfe of Bloomfield Hills is the group’s founder. Dana Burnstein of West Bloomfield is the Grand Circle of Women chair.
Several hundred people attended the program, which included a preview showing of The Embrace of Dying: How we deal with the end of life, the final film in a documentary series about aging by Detroit filmmaker Keith Famie. The film will air on Detroit Public Television in the fall. The film shows the work of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network, with Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny of Temple Israel, one of JHCN’s chaplains, in a prominent role.
Susan Lewis of Bloomfield Hills received the 2015 Dove Award in recognition of her ongoing support for Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network.
“We don’t do it for the attention,” she said about the couple’s philanthropy. “We do it because it’s what we need to do, to carry on what our parents started.” Lewis is the daughter of Dorothy and Peter Brown, whose philanthropy enabled the creation of Jewish Senior Life’s Dorothy and Peter Brown Adult Day Care Program and Dorothy and Peter Brown Memory Care Pavilion, two well-known programs serving the Jewish elderly in Detroit. Her parents were strong activists for the elderly, said Lewis, feeling that they were among the most vulnerable people in the community. Lewis and her husband continue to endow the adult day care pro- gram, and she sits on its board.
Lewis said her two daughters, Lainie Lipschutz and Julie Winkelman, both of Bloomfield Hills, are also strong supporters of the Brown programs. She hopes her five grandchildren, ages 9 to 21, will continue the legacy. Lewis said she and her husband, an attorney and real estate developer, learned about Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network when her parents faced their final illnesses. About two days before her father, Peter Brown, died in 2000 at age 89, she met Jewish Hospice’s founder and executive director Rabbi E.B. “Bunny” Freedman at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
“He treated us with such kindness and care,” Lewis said. “Even though my dad was unconscious by then, I knew he would have liked him. Bunny was just so helpful.”
Seven years later, Dorothy Brown fell ill but didn’t meet the criteria for hospice. “I called Bunny and told him I didn’t know what to do. He said don’t worry. He took over and made sure we had the best care,” Lewis said. “His wife, Shaindy, even came to the house with baked goods.”
Five years ago, the Lewises offered a challenge to Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network, which had just embarked on an endowment campaign: for every million dollars the organization raised, the Lewises would donate $250,000, up to $1 million. Jewish Hospice completed the challenge last September, raising a total of $5 million. Now, as part of its strategic plan, JHCN aims to increase its endowment to $10 million, and the Lewises are reprising their challenge: raise $4 million and we’ll donate another $1 million.
“Ten million dollars will give us enough to secure the future of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network,” Freedman said. He hopes to complete the challenge within five years. The organization’s 2015 budget is approximately $1.25 million.
JHCN works with more than a dozen area hospices, which provide clinical care from physicians, nurses, aides and therapists. Jewish Hospice provides spiritual care and support services for Jewish patients and their families. JHCN also helps the frail elderly and people with chronic illness who are not terminally ill and thus not eligible for hospice care. There is no charge to patients or families for the network’s services.
“All of our funding comes from philanthropy, though many of our donors are people who choose to support us because of the great care they have received,” said Freedman, who has been the face of Jewish hospice care in Detroit since 1993, when he started a program for Jewish patients at Hospice of Michigan. He left Hospice of Michigan in 1999 to start the independent Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network. “I’m 63, and I’m still going strong, but I won’t be around forever,” Freedman said. “An endowment of $10 million will make it much easier for the person who follows me, who won’t have to worry so much about fundraising but can build on what we’ve created.”
Freedman said JHCN won’t use any of the income generated by the endowment until the fund reaches at least $10 million. He has hired Dottie Deremo, who was CEO of Hospice of Michigan for 15 years before she retired at the end of 2013, as a consultant to work on long-term organizational sustainability and succession planning.
“Bunny is an iconic leader,” Deremo said. “He’s done an amazing job in the Jewish community, building this organization from scratch. He’s smart enough to ask for help in developing sustainability for the long haul. That’s good leadership.”
Succession planning is being done not just for Freedman but for all key positions, she said. Deremo said she and the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network leadership are creating an infrastruc- ture that will enable the organization to maintain and enhance quality. That includes cross-training of staff; creating job descriptions to ensure staff have consistent knowledge, skills and abilities; and measuring the organization’s services against best practices in the field. “Donors want to be sure the organization they’re giving to will be around for a while,” she said.