“Someone Will Be The Better For It”

This article was first published as “Philanthropist Helen Diller fulfills lifelong dream to inspire and help others”  in JWeekly.

“Do not lose sight of your dreams, even if the problems seem insurmountable. Keep going in any event. If you want to do something, go do it.” Bay Area philanthropist Helen Diller offered that advice to her grandchildren in a book of reflections about her life. “And by doing so maybe, just maybe,” she wrote, “someone, somewhere will be the better for it.”

This is sound advice from a woman who has followed her interests and passions and ended up making a significant impact on the lives of countless people in the region, around the country, and in Israel.

“I’ve always wanted to inspire and give back. It is never too late to give back to the community and to make the world a better place,” Diller, now in her 80s, said in a recent interview from her home in Woodside.

The Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Endowment Fund, is known by many Bay Area Jews for the various programs it has established since its inception in 1999. There are the International Diller Teen Initatives, which include the Diller Teen Fellows and the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. There are also the Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education, as well as a Diller-endowed Jewish Studies program at U.C. Santa Cruz, and an endowment for a visiting Israeli scholar at U.C. Berkeley. Many young families recognize the Diller name from the Helen Diller Family Preschool at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

In addition, the family foundation has looked beyond the Jewish community to the San Francisco community at large, with a particular focus on the arts and medical research. It sponsors the annual Helen Diller Family Israel Antiquities Lecture Series at the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco, and it gave $5 million to build the entrance courtyard of the new de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. In 2009, the foundation granted $35 million to build the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus. More recently, it paid for a major renovation of the Dolores Park playground, as it did previously for the playground at Julius Kahn Park in the Presidio.

In all, the Helen Diller Family Foundation has granted more than $200 million to date.

 Click here to read more.

 © 2012 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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