Father’s Centennial gift honors his children who head Federation agencies.
Members of the board of governors of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and United Jewish Foundation had reason to celebrate at their April 24 meeting with the announcement of a $1 million gift to Federation’s Centennial Fund from Marvin D. Siegel, M.D.
Federation is in the fifth year of its Centennial Campaign, which has raised $213 million from 137 donors. Leaders are working to raise $250 million to support the future of the local and international Jewish communities.
The Dr. Marvin D. and Gloria (z’l”) Siegel Centennial Fund will be split between Jewish Senior Life, which is headed by Siegel’s daughter, Nancy Heinrich, and the Jewish Community Center, headed by his son, Brian. While the late Bill and Madge Berman made a Centennial gift to establish and maintain the theater that bears their name at the JCC, this gift is the first to the JCC itself.
Siegel’s children are unusual, if not unique, in their paths to leadership. A few years ago, the siblings simultaneously served as the volunteer presidents of Jewish Federation member agencies. Now both are CEOs of those same agencies.
Heinrich and Siegel say their parents infused their lives with Jewish values, including service to the community and support for Israel. They also give a shout-out to their maternal grandmother, Fannie Siegel, who continually admonished each to “be a mensch.”
Marvin Siegel, 84, of Birmingham, is a practicing dermatologist. He was active with the Maimonides Society, Federation’s group for physicians, and frequently opened his home for major donor parlor meetings. He volunteered his medical expertise for Project Chesed, which provided free care for refugees and others unable to pay for services.
His wife, who died in August 2016, was an active member of the local National Council of Jewish Women. She volunteered at Orchards Children’s Services, which was started by NCJW, and taught English to newly arrived refugees from the former Soviet Union.
Gloria Siegel was very people-oriented, Heinrich said. “She knew everybody’s story and knew who was related to whom. Everyone felt like she was their special friend,” she said.
Marvin Siegel said if his wife were still alive she would be “absolutely ecstatic” about Nancy and Brian’s life career trajectories. “I’m very proud of all my children, and I’m fortunate they all still live in this area,” he said.
Marvin and Gloria’s unwavering support for Israel was the “catalytic motivation” for their involvement with the local Jewish community, Brian said. They made eight or 10 trips to the Jewish state, including some with their children.
The Siegels’ third child, Michael, 60, of West Bloomfield works with his father as a dermatologist. He hasn’t been as active in the Jewish community but has spent many volunteer hours in the medical field, including a term as president of the Michigan Dermatological Society. He is devoted to his patients and is the “consummate physician,” Brian said.
Heinrich and Siegel break the mold in another way: Both worked their way up through the ranks of their respective boards as hardworking and committed lay leaders before they were asked to serve as agency professionals in 2016.
Heinrich, 57, of Huntington Woods, worked for 30 years as a real estate attorney before joining the Jewish Senior Life staff. She was a longtime JSL board member and served as its president from June 2011 to December 2013. She also served on Federation’s Israel and Overseas Committee and chaired the Israel and Overseas Department.
Brian Siegel, 54, of Birmingham also worked as a real estate attorney before becoming an entrepreneur. He is a partner in several area businesses, including Star Trax, Joe Dumars Fieldhouse and Detroit Axe, a competitive axe-throwing arena in Ferndale.
He was one of four originators of NEXTGen, Federation’s program for young adults. He chaired several Federation committees, including the Israel at 60 committee, the Missions committee and the Grosfeld Leadership Development program. He was president of the Jewish Community Center twice, from 2011-2013 and again from 2015-2016. He has won numerous awards, including the Susan Alterman Leadership Award from the JCC in 2004 and the Frank A.Wetsman Leadership Award from Federation in 2008. He was the Larry D. Sills Memorial Golf Outing honoree in 2010.
Robert Aronson, Federation’s former CEO and chief development adviser, said Heinrich and Siegel were “outstanding leaders as volunteers who are now dedicated professionals running two of our most important agencies.”
“This doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “Marvin and Gloria were dedicated to community service, philanthropy and family, and it’s obvious that Nancy and Brian absorbed this from their parents.”
Siegel and his sister say their parents raised them with an unspoken expectation of excellence.
“They did not accept anything less than total commitment,” Heinrich said. “They said, ‘If you do a job, do it right.’ If someone asks us to do something and we can, we will do it; we don’t see an option other than doing the best job we can.”
In addition to their love for the Jewish community, Siegel said he and his sister share several personal characteristics. “We’re both honest, creative and authentic,” he said. “We care.”