Making history with Roselyne Chroman Swig

On Tuesday, October 27, 2009, Roselyne Chroman Swig was presented with a published Oral History of her presidency of the Jewish Community Federation at the 13th Annual Tax & Estate Planning Seminar Community Luncheon Program. Mrs. Swig is a Businesswoman, advisor, activist, and philanthropist serving in the arts, business, academic, political and social welfare communities. Below is the text of her speech.

Thank you so much, all of you.  I am thrilled to be here with loving family members, including my daughter, Susan, daughter-in-law Darian, my son Rick, dear friends and colleagues, and privileged to be receiving this oral history book of a significant moment in my life, documenting and reflecting on the priceless work within the organized Jewish community. As you,  leaders all,  would agree, individual accomplishments and leadership opportunities do not happen by themselves;  they happen with support, commitment, generosity of spirit and a strong desire to give of oneself and stay the course. They happen when individual responsibility and compassion for others take priority, and the desire to make a positive difference fills you, body and soul.  They happen when differences are respected and good will and good sense abound.

I have been more than fortunate and so lucky to have had the joy of meeting in 1949, my loving husband (on a blind date!). Both Dick and I came from supportive families and together in this beloved city, we had a deep awareness of our good fortune to be part of a sophisticated, innovative and growing community that honored the individual, honored spiritual and cultural beliefs, valued philanthropy, and championed diversity. Becoming part of the Swig Family was becoming a student in training for public and community service and philanthropy, and embracing those ideals has been a life-long learning experience through today.

As a young coed (go Bears!), recently married, coming into a new community, from the beginning I felt welcomed and supported by loving, caring people, new family and friends alike.  I was swept into the business environment of tourism and hospitality and imbued with a lifelong commitment to tikkun olam….reaching out to repair the world. My natural curiosity (I am a Gemini after all) informed my deep desire to find my own identity, to know myself. This deeply personal urgency became a comfortable challenge for me, one that I am mindful of and enjoy to this day. Volunteerism was part of my growing up, and running for or holding office seems to have surfaced in every phase of my life. The feeling of engagement, of working together, of hoping to make a difference, was just there, present, fulfilling.  And the benefits of giving of oneself far exceeded any expectation I might have had.

My initiation into Jewish community volunteerism was as a waitress in the small, very busy Mt. Zion Hospital coffee shop, with my yellow and white uniform…happiest when I was making sodas, milk shakes and malts and phosphates (anyone from Chicago knows what that is). And it was there that I learned, by seeing and doing, about commitment and service from one of my earliest mentors, Sylvia Stone (of blessed memory).  Sylvia, who was a legend in those revered hospital halls and throughout the community, who led by doing, who was a catalyst and had that magic touch of selflessness, good humor, intelligence and grace that was irresistible and magnetic. She became one of more than several leaders who affected my personal and community growth just by being herself.  Through the unceasing efforts of other leaders like my father-in-law Ben Swig, Walter Haas and Daniel Koshland, Golda Kaufman, Rhoda Goldman, Robert Sinton – unsuspecting mentors all – I watched and learned,  observing their humility, their wisdom, their passion, their hard work and dedication, and how they left personal agendas at the door – and by their actions, taught us all to dig deeper into our personal understanding of why we were doing what we were doing.

My history in the JCF was one of moving through the chairs of leadership from Women's Division Chair, Campaign Chair, Federation Campaign Chair and then to the Presidency…leading, along with Dick, the Roots mission in 1985 to eastern Europe and Israel, and with him leading the Shalom 91 mission to Israel...and elected chairperson of the JVS and serving as a member of the Israel Overseas Committee and board member of the Joint Distribution Committee. My term as president of the Federation had its particular dynamic in that with a change in presidents, there was also the appointment of a new executive director, Wayne Feinstein, providing extensive experience, and solid, respected history from having moved through the channels of the Jewish Professional Communal Service. Together we followed the dynamism of a visionary director, Rabbi Brian Lurie. My ongoing privilege spanning many years of participation has been to work with amazing, loving colleagues, Frannie Green, Adele Corvin, Annette Dobbs, as we became part of history in holding the office of president of the JCF, breaking the glass ceiling on a regular basis. I think by now they have stopped replacing the glass and the ceiling is totally open!

I remember well my pursuit in expanding the Federation’s mission to include Community Development…“Friendraising,” along with Fundraising, which was then the organization’s primary function.  I felt a distinct generational shift and the urgency to include the new generation of young adults who would rapidly be looked to to move into leadership positions, and whose historic memory was different from those before my own generation and me.  There was resistance to change, resistance that failed to recognize the enormous challenge we would face if we could not educate through community involvement those men, women and children who were not feeling the urgency of participating in the Federation's mission, here and in Israel.  Community building became the clarion call …new programs along with the continuing obligation of the annual campaign for funds for the then 45 agencies that came under the JCF’s umbrella. 

I believe in the Federation System of generations working together. I believe in our Jewish values of reaching out to repair the world no matter a personal comfort sacrifice. I believe in positive change, of assessment and taking the inherent risks. And I believe that if you are not willing to change, you will eventually fail as the world and your constituency moves on. This is all reflected in my oral history and I will not elaborate; you'll just have to read the book! However, I can tell you that the windows of the Federation were slowly opening wider and wider to new opportunities, to new regional administrative and capital structures, fostering community accessibility, stronger direct overseas support, collaboration with our synagogues and the many, diverse religious leaders and institutions.

My life is a tapestry, woven together loosely and tightly reflecting the many interests and paths that I have pursued and enjoyed. Many, if not most of you here today, have enabled the rich pattern of that tapestry, playing critical and motivating roles. In every single case I have learned from you, and my life is enriched by our relationships and our sharing: in our family lives, in women's empowerment, rescue and relief, in the media, education, the arts, politics and advocacy. Today there is another call: for coming together, for collaboration and cooperation, for assessing again the positive elements that have made the Federation and Endowment Fund such a positive force for so many years. There is vibrancy in the community that must be embraced and celebrated…and now how best to do that! The Jewish Community Federation of SF, the Peninsula, Marin, Santa Rosa and Sonoma is a movable feast…a living, responsive body that requires attention, wisdom, nurturing, care, replenishing and encouragement.  

I look forward to being part of its future and am grateful for being a part of its past. I am so appreciative of all of you who’ve been a part of my journey and to my dear and cherished family for your love and support. Each day is a blessing for me.  I have come a long way since 1950 and G-d willing I look forward each day to having a long way to go. Thank you!

Categories: Endowment


November 17, 2009


The Federation