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Bev Jacobson retires from career with Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy

Photo by David Riffel: Bev Jacobson (center) holds a gift presented to her by Todd Stettner, president and CEO of Jewish Federation, and Trudy Jacobson, Women’s Philanthropy chair, for her service to Women’s Philanthropy.

Generous, patient and kind are just some of the words used by volunteers and staff who’ve worked with Bev Jacobson. For 18 years, she’s held the position of Women’s Philanthropy director at the Jewish Federation of

{mprestriction ids="1"}Greater Kansas City. Others note that she is always smiling, is a good listener and stays in the background so her volunteers can shine. 

Last month’s Women’s Philanthropy annual meeting featured a dessert reception in Jacobson’s honor. Many of the women Jacobson has worked with over the years were in attendance.

Chair Trudy Jacobson — no relation — longtime member of its board of directors, has served as WP campaign co-chair, chair elect and chair.

“I have worked with Bev for many years. She guided the organization with professionalism, strong volunteer cultivation and dedication to Jewish Federation and its mission,” Trudy Jacobson said. “Bev encouraged others to find their areas of interest in Federation engagement and to grow as leaders in our Jewish community. She always treated volunteers with respect and humility, endearing her to all who worked in women’s philanthropy. 

Bev Jacobson was no stranger to Federation fundraising when she first came to Kansas City in 1996. For 10 years prior, she was executive director of the Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation in Wichita, where she and her husband, Bernie, raised their four children.

Jacobson found the mission of the Federation, the people, and the passion drawing her in. And that led to what she considers one of her career highlights — resettling Jews from the former Soviet Union and integrating them into Wichita’s small Jewish community of 1,200.

“We eventually resettled 60 individuals,” she said, crediting a Russian couple that had immigrated earlier with creating a plan to partner Wichitans with the Russian Jews.

“When I left Wichita, the Russian community presented me with a stained glass plate,” she said. “It was totally unexpected.” 

When their youngest daughter graduated from high school and left for the Young Judaea Year-Course in Israel, Jacobson grabbed the opportunity to become Women’s Philanthropy director in Kansas City. 

Her husband grew up in Kansas City and their children loved the idea, so Jacobson put her youngest on a plane and started work for the Federation. Bobby Gast, former Jewish Federation executive director here, taught her to “think ahead, to look at the whole project” from start to finish, Jacobson recalled. “You can’t be reactive; you have to know from beginning to end how a project or program will proceed so lay leaders will be successful,” she explained

Jacobson pointed to B’not Kehilla Leadership Program as another major achievement. The course trained many of the women currently holding leadership positions, not only in Women’s Philanthropy, but also in Federation and other community agencies. More than 150 women took the course.

“I feel like a mentor to so many,” she added, “and I’m so proud of them!”

She also noted the role she played as lead staff for the 75th anniversary of Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City six years ago.

“It wasn’t as if I did it alone,” she explained. Many volunteers and staff contributed to the success of that evening; with over 1,600 people in attendance.

If Jacobson had any advice to give, it would be summed up in one word: listen.

“You have to be willing to work in fundraising, to listen to benefactors, to try to understand their needs and why the mission of the organization is so important to them,” she explained. 

Lisa Bernard, another Women’s Philanthropy leader, has high praise for Jacobson.

“For over 10 years I have worked with her as a Women’s Philanthropy committee member and chair of various WP committees. Bev’s excellent people and organizational skills made her a delight to work with and a success in all that she did,” Bernard said.

“She is kind, compassionate, calm and patient,” she added, “and I wish her well in her next chapter of life.”

The next chapter is here as Jacobson begins another fund development job for the Brain Injury Association. Its executive director, Robin Abramowitz, served on the Women’s Philanthropy board and chaired B’not Kehillah.

And that means she’s come full circle.

“I feel good about leaving,” Jacobson concluded. “Being Women’s Philanthropy director is a visionary position. It’s all about how can we reach people, get them to engage and make a difference. ”