Shira Levine’s Philanthropic Mantra

Profile of a Donor Advised Fund holder

When Shira Levine talks about her philanthropic pursuits, her eyes light up and a knowing grin emerges on her face. Anyone who knows Shira knows that she approaches all aspects of her life with passion, gratitude, and a desire to soak up knowledge, and that she does this with absolute joy. Whether through her professional work or her giving, she is an out-of-the-box thinker. This has made her a successful veteran of Silicon Valley and a thoughtful philanthropist and leader. For the latter accomplishment, her tool is her Donor Advised Fund (DAF).

“I worked at eBay in the early days,” Shira remembers. “I was looking for ways to be strategic about my financial flexibility. I had always been charitable, but here was a chance to be more deliberate about my giving.”

Shortly after her success at eBay, her parents recommended that she open a Donor Advised Fund (they had their own fund with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta). The DAF seemed like a great vehicle to start a life in philanthropy due to the ease in which it could be used and its potential to help her fulfill what she called her philanthropic mantra: “Jews, Jazz, and Art.” Shira chose to follow in her parents’ footsteps and house the fund at her local Federation because it connected her “to the possibilities unfolding all around this diverse and innovative community.”

Her mantra has evolved over the years, leading her to fund organizations and programs that include her family’s interests, world issues through a Jewish lens and, most recently, a deeper focus on the Torah. “After being selected as a Wexner Fellow in the 2006 class,” Shira explains, “I became very interested in supporting Jewish nonprofits that bring us all closer to Torah: physically, theoretically, or figuratively — as well as bringing together the many voices on the Jewish spectrum.”

During this evolution, one thing has remained consistent: Shira seeks out the most innovative leaders and organizations as the ones she chooses to support — organizations and programs that are breaking the mold and promising a huge potential social impact.

“My family participates in cutting edge Jewish programs at emerging institutions,” Shira notes. “Institutions like Urban Adamah, a place where kids and young adults learn and love Judaism by working the land…a place where that love also translates into helping feed the needy. I am looking to support an Oakland-based opportunity that uses Jewish ethics to address the widening economic opportunity gap. Oakland is where I live and I want to be a Jew who works on a brighter and more equitable future for the whole community.”

Besides Urban Adamah, Shira also funds American Jewish World Service, led by the legendary Ruth Messinger, as well as Keshet, which has been present in the Bay Area for four years building a strong LGBT-Jewish community locally. And with all of this, she still maintains a focus on art institutions, comic books, and funding for her local synagogues.

Shira chairs the Federation’s Innovation Committee, and has recently been a part of an innovative grant round where two organizations, Wilderness Torah and Global Citizen Year, were awarded grants to develop internal revenue models that would enable them to be more self-sustainable. To her, chairing this committee is an extension of her passion to connect innovation and philanthropy. “I believe the Bay Area is leading a cultural revolution of modern Judaism that is accessible, exciting, and deeply meaningful. I’m delighted to serve in this capacity for the Federation, and I can’t wait to see where we go with it.”

If someone can be defined by their giving, Shira could be described as a person who seeks to change the world by attaching herself to ground-breaking programs, led by inspirational leaders, doing amazing work to deepen Jewish peoplehood while healing the world for all people.

Categories: Community, Philanthropy


September 18, 2015