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Funder's Focus: Marlene Scharr

Marlene Scharr fondly remembers her first volunteer job from her childhood. She helped patients as a “candy striper” at the former Mount Sinai Hospital in Hartford. When she looks back to remember her first engagement in Jewish philanthropy,she realizes there was no such thing. 

“As I look back on my youth, I realized that helping, giving and caring was just a part of our everyday life,”explains Marlene. “Sometimes the Rabbi would come by looking for help for one of his members, or during the war years you may have to share some of your food stamps.” 

Her leadership activities included serving on the Women’s Division of the Jewish Federation, and as a board member of the Federation and the Mandell Jewish Community Center. “Part of being Jewish for me is being very committed and involved in the Jewish community,” says Marlene. 

Marlene Scharr, pictured here in 1983, proudly displays a beautiful new group home established for the future residents of the Jewish Association for Community Living (JCL). 

When her youngest child was born with Down Syndrome, Marlene thought about starting a group home for families who have members with intellectual challenges to celebrate Jewish traditions together. This initial vision inspired a gift in 1976 to JCF to establish the Jewish Association for Community Living (JCL) group homes in the Jewish community. 

Through the years, Marlene and her family established three endowment funds: Marlene and Jerome Scharr Family Fund(donor advised), the Elizabeth Ina Scharr Fund (designated) and the GoldieIssner and S. Leonard Ginsberg Fund (unrestricted). 

The Scharrs have also granted funds to human service agencies including HARC, Inc., JCL and Camp Horizons, Inc. “These are organizations that people don’t generally give to, yet they are very important community organizations that need our support,” says Marlene. 

“The Greater Hartford Jewish community is a very giving community that not only serves Jewish organizations but the greater public,” notes Marlene, citing Tara’s Closet at Jewish Family Services, Jonathan’s Playground and JCL as organizations that serve all members of the community. 

“As times change, the needs of our communities are better served by a collective organization such as the Jewish Community Foundation,” says Marlene. “I feel comfortable knowing that if an emergency occurs in our community...JCF will be there as a source of help.”


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