Bernice Wenger says her commitment to philanthropy is the result of her family’s history of being givers and receivers.
Her grandmother helped found the Jewish Ladies Day Nursery in the East Bronx, which served kosher lunches and provided day care to children of poor working families for about 45 years until 1965. Her father, on the other hand was raised in a Jewish orphanage.
“I have the side that gave and the side that got,” said Wenger, a Port Washington resident for 47 years.
On May 4, Wenger was rewarded for her work when she was named JAFCO “Woman of the Year.”
“Bernice has a soul that runs very deep and connects directly to our children, she is a blessing to all of us who are lucky enough to know her,” a JAFCO spokeswoman said at the May 4th event.
“She’s a very caring, a very good friend, and a good mother,” Joan Weintraub, Bernice’s friend of over 40 years, said.
Wenger and her husband of 50 years, raised their three children in Port Washington. She is also a member of the local community synagogue and was a board member for 20 years. The art center at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center (SJJCC) in Roslyn was named by Wenger and her husband Edward.
As a child, Wenger said, she and her mother volunteered at the Jewish Ladies Day Nursery.
This experience introduced and nurtured Wenger’s propensity to give to others, she said.
Another significant reason for Wenger’s involvement with JAFCO, which stands for Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options, was her father’s “ill-fated luck,” when he was placed in a Jewish orphanage at a young age. His mother died during childbirth and his father was severely beaten during a holdup of his business and never recovered.
Wenger became involved in JAFCO twelve years ago, when she and husband visited their Children’s Village. A place where young orphans can live until they’re twenty-two years old. They were impressed and have actively supported JAFCO ever since.
“My husband and I have made a lifetime commitment to JAFCO,” Wenger said. Since JAFCO allows the children to stay until they’re twenty-two, many can go to college or a professional school, Wenger said.
JAFCO is a not-for-profit group based in South Florida, whose mission is to care for “abused and neglected children as well as those with developmental disabilities in the Jewish community,” their mission statement reads.
Wenger and her husband have donated enough money to help build two wings for JAFCO. They helped build a wing in their Children’s Village and one in their Children’s Ability center, a daycare center for children with disabilities.
They’re also JAFCO Godparents, which means they donate $1,800 every year to a JAFCO child. They’re also members of JAFCO’s Circle of Hope and Founder’s Circle.
Members of the Circle of Hope have made a 10 year pledge of $1800 a year, and as a member of the Founder’s Circle, the Wenger’s have made a lifetime commitment to donate to JAFCO. JAFCO has established a New York presence through an active Long Island “friends” group.
To Wenger, JAFCO “represents a continuation of my family’s charitable works and a home for Jewish children, with the ability to secure a higher education, an opportunity my father never had,” Wenger said.
An organization like JAFCO that provides a place for neglected children to live is “what we want to bring to Long Island,” she said.
Wenger said she will be attending JAFCO’s eighth annual Long Island fundraising event titled “Fun in the Sun,” on July 18th from 10:30 am to 4 pm at Glen Head Country Club in Glen Head.