Susan Moss, 76, says she always had a deep thirst for Judaism. Growing up in Queens, N.Y., synagogue membership fees were prohibitive for her family, and she didn’t have much connection to her heritage. She recalls following her friends to Hebrew school and sitting outside on the stoop with a pen and paper listening and learning through the open door.

Susan moved to Long Island in 1974 and worked as an elementary-school teacher in the New York City public-school system for 35 years, teaching math and science, as well as art and physical education. She would often test the institutional boundaries and involve her students in creative activities and even play rowdy games of baseball with them. “My classroom was ‘organized chaos,’ I danced to the tune of my own drummer,” she says with a laugh.

She retired in 1999 following a foot injury. She always lived modestly and within her means. When her mother passed away in 1994 and left her a small sum as an inheritance, Susan invested the money and watched it steadily grow over the following decades.

One day, about six years ago, Susan saw an ad for Torah classes being offered by a nearby Chabad House and decided to give it a try. She was immediately hooked. She felt like she had finally found what she was searching for her whole life.

“They offered me a home that I never had, and I am so happy to be associated with them,” she told Chabad.org, referring to Village Chabad in Stony Brook on Long Island, N.Y. “The rabbi, Shalom Ber Cohen, actually answered my questions for a change, even the silly ones.”

“Chabad does so much good work around the globe, and Rabbi Shalom Ber is amazing, “ she says, barely containing her enthusiasm when talking about her rabbi and Chabad.“If I don’t call him when I am sick he scolds me. … He always remembers to call, and he comes over to help me out. He is genuinely caring, and his kids are so sweet and polite; they will surely grow up to contribute much to the world.”

When writing her will, Susan stipulated that the money should go towards promoting Jewish continuity, saying “I am certainly not going to take it with me.”

“Susan is very passionate about Jewish continuity; she has a fire in her heart for Judaism, and Chabad is here to cater to that. Her gift is going to make a tremendous difference in our community and for Jewish life in Suffolk County,” Rabbi Cohen told Chabad.org. “We are delighted to have her as an involved member, and after a hundred and twenty happy and healthy years, her legacy will continue to live on.”

Moss at Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters with Rabbi Sholom Ber Cohen of Village Chabad in Stony Brook, N.Y.
Moss at Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters with Rabbi Sholom Ber Cohen of Village Chabad in Stony Brook, N.Y.

Program Provides Personalized Strategies for Donors

Susan is just one of the thousands of donors worldwide who have made legacy gifts to their local Chabad centers. The Planned Giving Office at Chabad Tomorrow, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., assists Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries around the world in working with supporters on legacy gifts. It is a program of Merkos Suite 302, which supports Chabad emissaries with various initiatives. Prospective legacy donors and their financial advisors work with a planned-giving specialist at Chabad Tomorrow on a personalized strategy that fulfills their philanthropic goals.

Planned giving can include bequests, gifts of life insurance or real estate, charitable trusts and other giving opportunities. Making a bequest does not cost anything during the donor’s lifetime, and in some cases, can even relieve the tax burden of the heirs.

In the five years since Chabad Tomorrow was launched, donors have pledged more than $80 million in commitments in future gifts.

“Perhaps now, in the midst of a global pandemic, Chabad’s all-encompassing role has become even more clear,” said Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, executive director of Merkos 302. “Despite being an organization dedicated to bringing Jews together in brick-and-mortar synagogues, Chabad and its outreach to lonely Jews has increased due to the circumstances and continues to play a unique role in guiding and educating the youth during these difficult times,” he continued.

“These legacy gifts, which support and sustain Jewish life and learning even after the donor passes from this world, help keep Judaism relevant, dynamic and meaningful ” he added.

Susan, whose personality is bubbly, upbeat and humorous, noted that leaving a legacy gift is important because “we must continue to develop Yiddishkeit among the youth, and our generation needs to be proactive in ensuring a meaningful Jewish future for all.”