Building a Legacy with the new Shalom Austin Jewish Foundation Director and Philanthropic Advisor
Jennifer Kohn Koppel. Credit: Jolie Estes.
By Allison Teegardin
In March, The Shalom Austin Jewish Foundation proudly welcomed Jennifer Kohn Koppel as the new Foundation director and philanthropic advisor. In her role, Koppel will serve as a trusted leader for the Greater Austin Jewish community in donor advised funds, planned giving solutions and charitable assets. Koppel says she is excited to consult with community members to help them imagine, design and create a better world through use of their philanthropic resources.
Koppel was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her parents immigrated to the U.S. after World War II. Her mother was born in Germany and forced to flee in 1939, ultimately moving to San Francisco, California in 1949. Her father was born in Austria. His father was rounded up in a sweep of Vienna and sent to Dachau and then Buchenwald and released in 1939 on the promise of a U.S. sponsor. They spent the war in Southern Italy and finally made it to the U.S. in 1952. Koppel’s parents met and married in San Francisco and her father’s work in the petroleum oil industry brought him first to the Texas panhandle and then to Louisiana. “Growing up a first-generation American Jew from the deep south was both defining and strangely unremarkable,” said Koppel. “I always had a place where I was fully myself at Jewish summer camp in Mississippi and treasured my network. of friends in North American Federation of Temple Youth, still some of the most creative and dynamic people I know.”
Koppel attended the University of Texas and began her first job upon graduation here in Austin at American Israel Public Affairs Committee as a field coordinator. This began a career dedicated to communal impact and legacy building. Koppel’s tenure with AIPAC led to Los Angeles and ultimately a return to Texas as the organization’s regional director. Koppel then moved to New York City where she deepened her engagement in philanthropy as Senior Vice President of Jewish Funders Network. After living in numerous cities across the country over the years, Koppel says she is happy to be back in Austin with her husband and three children. Koppel has dedicated her career to be centered around communal impact and legacy building.
“Working at the Jewish Funders Network at a time when change through the nonprofit sector was growing into a pursuit that interested more and more people, I feel like I witnessed a sort of second age of philanthropy,” said Koppel. “I was fortunate to work within an incredible universe of professional colleagues, funders, foundation staff and nonprofit leaders who were bold and took risks to bring new ideas to the philanthropic sector. This included networked and collaborative philanthropy that launched organizations like the Foundation for Jewish Camp and PJ Library, innovative matching grant programs that stimulated day school giving like never before, a Teen Philanthropy network, and awareness and resources to ensure inclusion in our community. This is the promise of opportunities we can nurture at the Jewish Foundation here in Austin.”
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