J.R. Rothstein

They say charity begins at home, and for me, it really did.

Location: New York, New York

Profession: Lawyer and Real Estate Investor

Who inspires you to give?:

They say charity begins at home, and for me, it really did. Both of my parents are my inspiration for giving charity.

One of my earliest childhood memories involves my mother taking me away from a video game, helping her clear out the food cabinets, carrying them into the car, and accompanying her as she drove in the dark of night to deliver food to an old woman she knew who needed it. In the car ride, she told me about the importance of charity, about how she had learned charity from her mother and how her mother had learned it from hers.

My mother’s grandmother, my great-grandmother, is something of a family legend. She dedicated her life to charity, abolition of alcohol, and women’s suffrage.  In her collected works, she wrote,  “in the golden dawn of tomorrow, duty awaits us, and ours will be the honor if we walk in her ways. Vast are the spheres for our labor, vaster are our responsibilities. Let us act worthily of our day, not lying down in ignoble, but acting a brave part in lifting heavenward our fellow man.” My mother inherited this ethos and did everything she could to pass it on to us.

My father, too, taught me about charity.  My father, like my mother, has a huge heart, and will give charity to every single person who asks him. One time, I remember asking my father why he gave charity to a certain man that I thought didn’t deserve. I remember him conveying a teaching, that has been passed down in the Rothstein family for at least five generations:  “it is better to give to nine who don’t
deserve than turn away one who does.”

This is the home I was raised in.  No matter the race, religion or background of the recipient, if the person needed, and if my parents were capable, they helped them.  My parents never had to lecture my brothers on the importance of public service, or of charity, their lives embody it.

What is your charity of choice?: 

Today, I give my time and money to AJWS, DOROT, and AJC ACCESS.

How do you give of your time?:

I sit on a number of charitable boards and volunteer with Dorot.

If you could start your own charity, what would it be?:

I don’t think I would start my own charity.  I think there are plenty of existing charities out there that need support.  I would find an existing charity and invest in building it up further and expand its existing infrastructure and programming.  There is already a charity for every possible cause under the sun, all a person has to do it find it and begin working with it.

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Julia Levy, Founder, has a decade of development experience, including working for a philanthropist, a small nonprofit and now a large nonprofit. She has raised significant dollars for numerous causes, from education to religion and from donors of all ages. Julia holds a Certificate in Fundraising from NYU’s Heyman Center for Philanthropy and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University. Julia has taught fundraising workshops, most recently at Brooklyn Brainery and coached development professionals.

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Why We Give tells stories of ordinary philanthropists, making a difference, dollar by dollar and hour by hour.  

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