Local Philanthropists’ Transformative Gift Creates a Welcoming Jewish Space at the J
Left to right: Noah, David, Abby, Jennifer Kaufman. Courtesy: Kaufman Family.
By Allison Teegardin
In the summer of 2022, Jennifer and David Kaufman, longtime supporters of Shalom Austin, expanded their giving by making a generous contribution to the Generations capital campaign. Along with their financial support, the Kaufmans have cemented their gift by naming the brand-new Jennifer & David Kaufman Family Living Room in the new JCC building which is set to open in early 2023 on the Dell Jewish Community Campus.
“Austin needs excellent physical Jewish spaces. We chose to name the living room since it is a centerpiece of gathering. It is a year-round place meant to be welcoming and engaging. It is multi-purpose and multi-generational. We are hopeful that it will be used for both Jewish and non-Jewish events and serve as a place where people can just exist with no purpose other than to be in a physical Jewish space,” the Kaufmans said.
David Kaufman grew up in Austin, Texas. He says as the child of a working, single mom with three siblings who were all living in a neighborhood without other Jewish families, it wasn’t easy to affiliate much with the Jewish community. “I was literally the only Jewish kid in my grade,” David says. “I got to explain the Jewish holidays to others every year.” David recalls that outside of the synagogue, there were no physical Jewish spaces where the family could participate and connect with other Jewish families.
On the contrary, Jennifer Kaufman grew up in Houston in an area with many Jewish spaces. There was a thriving multibranched Jewish community center and the synagogues were more developed at that time. Jennifer became part of a blended family with a history of contributing to these spaces. And so, when Jennifer and David married, they both knew they wanted to be near Jewish spaces for their growing family to enjoy for generations to come. “When we were married and knew we were going to have children, we moved to Northwest Hills,” David says. “We both were very fond of the Early Childhood Program because the physical space was warm and inviting. We loved that it was connected to other activities at the J and the people there made it all the more amazing.” Although the Kaufmans now live in Westlake, they remain connected to the J. Noting that no matter where people live in and around Austin, staying connected is very important, David said, “The Jewish community in Westlake has exploded in the last 12 years. It is awesome to see these families in our neighborhood as well as at Jewish events at the J.”
As one of the co-founders of Voyant, David says that at home and at work, physical space has always been important to him. “We built our offices to be full of light and warmth. We placed them to be accessible to both humans and dogs and designed them to mix work with socialization. The goal was always for the office to be welcoming for both office and non-office functions such as the numerous Mahjongg games and BBYO events Voyant has hosted,” David said.
As construction of the newly expanded and renovated Dell Jewish Community Center nears completion, anticipation and excitement are ramping up. In the building, the new lobby and cafe will be the heart of the Jennifer & David Kaufman Family Living Room and will provide a place for families to build connections with seating, community workspace, food, and a beautiful view.
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