WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Now in its 8th year helping thousands of people in need throughout the Palm Beaches, Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County’s Jewish Volunteer Center (JVC) has received a $2.5 million gift from the Sidney Kohl Family that will significantly amplify and sustain its work forever. To honor this remarkable contribution, the center is renamed the Dorothy & Sidney Kohl Jewish Volunteer Center (Kohl JVC). The gift was announced on May 11, 2023, at Federation’s Annual Meeting.
With historic population growth in the local community, the Kohl JVC’s role has quickly expanded in recent years to help meet emerging community needs currently outpacing available programs and services. Since its inception, Kohl JVC’s projects have helped nearly 100,000 local community members in need thanks to more than 5,000 annual volunteers of all ages, faiths and backgrounds.
In addition to ongoing efforts to pack and distribute meals, support literacy in local schools, and connect volunteers with local organizations, Kohl JVC leads a series of community-wide signature programs – including Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Day of Service, Good Deeds Day, and 8 Days, 8 Ways of Giving Back.
In the face of growing antisemitic incidents in the Palm Beaches, Kohl JVC’s work in the broader community has become more crucial than ever. For example, Kohl JVC – in partnership with Palm Beach Atlantic University – held its annual MLK Day of Service in January 2023, which brought together more than 850 members of all faiths, races and ages to volunteer with organizations across 20 locations in Palm Beach County, followed by a ceremony to stand in solidarity against all forms of hate.
Jewish Federation created the Kohl JVC in 2015. The Kohls’ granddaughter and a Federation Executive Committee member, Juliana Gendelman of Palm Beach, had a pivotal role in its establishment, and served as its second Chair. She served five years in that role, and also helped found its MLK Day of Service. Gendelman regularly volunteers with her husband, Christopher Goldberg, and their daughter, at Kohl JVC service projects.
There are four generations of the Kohl family living in Palm Beach, including Sidney and Dorothy’s oldest daughter, Lori, and her husband, Bruce Gendelman.
“We have been inspired and feel hopeful witnessing how JVC has been a source of light to both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities, providing support and connection for thousands of people,” shared Dorothy and Sidney. “We are honored to ensure its work is sustained into the future, building a more compassionate community for everyone who calls the Palm Beaches home.”
Kohl JVC continues to grow by providing volunteer initiatives for all ages, often in partnership with community organizations including Palm Beach Atlantic University, Education Foundation of Palm Beach County/Red Apple Supplies, Palm Beach County Food Bank and CROS Ministries, as well as with area faith leaders.
“The Kohls are among the most dedicated and philanthropic families in our community – with family members serving in key leadership roles and making a hands-on impact by volunteering in community-wide service projects,” said Michael Hoffman, Federation’s President & CEO. “This endowment will forever exemplify the family’s unique values and extraordinary commitment to the Palm Beaches.”
From fall 2022 to spring 2023, Kohl JVC service projects provided 70,000 meals to local people in need; contributed 4,300 books and assisted in packing 17,000 backpacks with supplies to students at Palm Beach County Title I schools; packed and donated 4,500 Dignity Grows toiletry kits to community members in need, and brought together nearly 5,000 volunteers to make a difference.
“We are incredibly moved by Dorothy and Sidney’s remarkable example of leadership and philanthropy, as well as their deep-rooted passion for supporting work to bring people of all faiths and backgrounds together to help the entire community,” shared Jonathan Chane, chair of Kohl JVC. “The Kohls are nurturing a more compassionate community through their generous, long-term investment.”
The Sidney Kohl Family has a record of supporting organizations tied to education, the arts and Jewish philanthropy. Sidney’s father, Max, an immigrant, started a family business in Milwaukee with a small corner grocery store in 1929. Sidney along with his brothers and father grew the company to be a chain of 70 supermarkets and then started a nationwide chain of department stores. He and his wife Dorothy raised their children in Milwaukee. They moved to Florida in 1979, where Sidney continued to be a successful real estate developer and investor.
Sidney, a Harvard Law School graduate, served as Chairman of Good Samaritan Medical Center, and he has also served as Chairman of Palm Beach United Way and sat on the boards of the Kravis Center and Norton Museum as well as public companies.
Dorothy, a lifelong competitive athlete, was ranked one of the country’s best tennis players in the 1950’s. She was also inducted into the U.S. Tennis Association USTA Midwest Hall of Fame.
The Kohls’ transformative gift serves as a nucleus commitment to Campaign for the Future, the largest fundraising campaign in Jewish Palm Beach’s history. This comprehensive fundraising campaign seeks to grow annual fundraising, increase the number of multi-year pledges, and create new endowments to meet the needs of our growing community – Today, Tomorrow and Forever. The campaign integrates many forms of giving, including the Annual Campaign and Targeted Giving—both to support our community’s short-term needs of Today and Tomorrow, and long-term needs through endowments at Federation’s William A. Meyer Jewish Community Foundation.
For more information about the Dorothy & Sidney Kohl Jewish Volunteer Center, visit jewishvolunteer.org.
For more information about Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, visit jewishpb.org.
About Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County
Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County serves as the "City Hall" of the Jewish community of the Palm Beaches, impacting the local community, Israel and 70 countries around the world. Powered by the generosity, leadership and volunteerism of community members, Federation works with a network of partners and programs to address causes that affect the Jewish community at home and across the globe. Visit jewishpb.org for more.