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Community Spotlight: Jewish Federation of Sara-Mana Receives $1.15 Million Bequest

Robert Michelson

SARASOTA – The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee (JFSM) recently received a bequest of approximately $1.15 million from Sarasota resident Robert Michelson who died in April. The funds will be used to provide vital scholarships to local Jewish and Christian students to attend post-secondary schools through the Robert Michelson Interfaith Scholarship Fund.

“While Robert left JFSM an extremely generous gift upon his passing, this is not a story about money,” says Marty Haberer, associate executive director at JFSM. “This is one of those wonderful and rare stories about a modest person who has changed the world with his generosity, selflessness and vision.”

Haberer explains that Michelson had been a Jewish orphan in the northeast who never forgot that the skills he was given as a teacher were given to him by Christian mentors. For the majority of his life, he taught electrical skills in vocational schools in Boston. “He was so proud of his craft that he brought the original letters from his students, colleagues and supervisors to the JFSM office for all to see,” says Haberer.

“Robert was also a dignified veteran of World War II. In fact, one of his greatest concerns was that he received a Jewish funeral and be buried in a military cemetery,” says Haberer.

“He wanted to make certain he could leave a legacy for the Jewish heritage he felt such pride in, as well as provide for the Christian community that had been so kind to him.”

In honor of Mr. Michelson’s generous bequest, Federation leadership has renamed its long-standing college scholarship program the Michelson Scholarship Program, funded by many generous donors, including the Robert Michelson Interfaith Scholarship Fund.

“For decades, this scholarship program has been doing very important work,” says Haberer. “It provided vital college and vocational scholarships to local Jewish teenagers. Through Mr. Michelson’s generosity and directive, it will be infused with new scholarship gifts annually so that an equal number of Jewish and Christian students will receive post-secondary school scholarships.”

“Robert Michelson had the unique attributes of being clear, intense and passionate for what he wanted to make reality. You could see those traits in his deep, clear blue eyes,” says Haberer. “At the same time, he was a humble, simple man who did not need very much while living a long and satisfying life. The best gift of all was to get to spend time with this fascinating man. If you never heard of Robert Michelson before, you have heard of him now. You will continue to hear of him in perpetuity.”

The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to save Jewish lives and enhance Jewish life in the Sarasota-Manatee region, in Israel, and throughout the world. In addition, the Federation is responsive when worldwide catastrophes occur. For more information about The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, call 941-371-4546 or visit www.TheJewishFederation.org.


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