“She is such a force of nature,” says Susan Wolfe, good friend of Deb Kurland and a longtime leader at the OFJCC, having served as Director of Communications, Vice President of the Board and Chief Development Officer.
But Susan is not the only OFJCC leader that has clear memories of those days back in the 1980s when Deb Kurland and her family went through an unthinkable loss.
Sandy Blovad, former Executive Director of the JCC, says, “Debbie was a preschool parent and she had young children. And then, Samuel was born and died tragically of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) at six weeks. It reached my level and I reached out to Debbie. She wanted to be active at the OFJCC and wanted to be active in the community. I said that a wonderful way to always remember Sam is to develop a scholarship fund in his honor. She embraced the suggestion and moved forward with that.”
“She was very focused on channeling the grief into something positive,” adds Susan.
Deb and her husband Fred established the Samuel Benjamin Kurland Campership Fund. “She didn’t feel that she could seed the fund by herself but she has tremendous energy and creativity,” says Susan. “She really had a drive and a vision.” Together, Debbie and Susan put on major events that drew hundreds of attendees and raised money for the scholarship fund. “I think it healed her in the process. She was able to channel all that sadness into making happy times for other people’s children.” At the time, there was also a children’s kitchen built in the preschool by Phoebe Bressack in memory of Samuel Kurland. It bore the inscription, “May this kitchen be used in joy and laughter.”
Today, Deb and her husband Fred are reinvigorating the Samuel Benjamin Kurland Scholarship Fund, which will provide funds for preschoolers to attend summer camp at the OFJCC.
“One of the great things about the JCC in my mind,” says Susan, “is the friendships that were formed there and the community that comes from a JCC. I know Debbie works out there many days a week. Poor thing, the workout takes her twice as long as it takes anybody else because she’s got so many people to talk to! That’s one of the great byproducts, whether you’re involved at the preschool or fitness center or you’re dropping by for a cultural arts event and going to the café. My best friends in life are the people that I met through the JCC preschool. We’ve been through our whole lives together.”
Sandy explains, “I think it’s important that people understand the history of the JCC. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum—there is major history. People who are members, whether they are Jewish or not, are part of that history. They have met a number of people. They have had positive experiences. The Kurland family and all of her friends are a perfect example of that. Being part of the JCC was a defining moment in their lives. It is an institution that helps to define them. It is a wonderful place to come with blended families where cultural Judaism lives. Even if you are not a practicing Jew, it is still an exposure to Jewish values and Jewish culture.” And so, too, the Jewish influence in remembering Sam. “That was always a philosophy—let’s keep the memory alive, let’s keep the name alive. It’s a core value of Judaism.”
Says Deb, “There is probably not a week that I don’t think of Sam! He is forever in our hearts. The campership fund is a way to turn a memory into a blessing—and a way to demonstrate our love for our children, grandchildren, friends and community.”
Last summer, a total of $54,000 in camperships gave 50 children the opportunity to enjoy J-Camp at the Oshman Family JCC. Your generosity makes these experiences possible.
If you would like to make a gift in honor of the Samuel Benjamin Kurland Campership Fund, you can donate online at paloaltojcc.org/donate and designate the fund in Step 4 or send a check to the below address and note “Kurland Campership Fund” on the memo line:
Attn: Myles Blackmon / Oshman Family JCC / 3921 Fabian Way / Palo Alto, CA 94303