Four members of the Bart family will receive the Tzedakah Award, the highest honor of the Jewish Endowment Foundation of Louisiana (JEF), at the JEF’s Annual Event this Sunday morning, October 28, at 11:30 a.m. Slated to receive the coveted award at the Hilton Hotel Riverside are mother Hertha Bart, wife of the late Morris Bart Sr.; son Morris Bart III and wife Cathy; and daughter Vivian Bart Cahn. The JEF selected these members of the Bart family to be recognized for their past and ongoing dedication to philanthropy and service to the Jewish community.
Morris Bart III, a successful plaintiff attorney with offices across the region, learned from Hertha and his father of blessed memory the concept of tzedakah (charity) while growing up in New Orleans. Influenced by that concept and his goal to see his practice succeed, he has become increasingly dedicated to helping those less fortunate than him. “I see every day the suffering of people in New Orleans, working people, minorities, and how they suffer, particularly when they have injuries.”
He and his wife Cathy have both contributed meaningfully to the local Jewish community by volunteering and contributing significantly to worthy projects. “I have two major overriding goals,” Bart says. “One is to help my local community, Jewish and non-Jewish, to become vibrant and thriving. Beyond that I help and support Israel. It is important to have a safe haven for Jews, and the significance of the Jewish state is paramount.”
The Barts’ support of charities and philanthropic endeavors is substantial and wide-ranging. Campaign co-chairs for the 2011 Annual Campaign for the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, they have donated through a JEF donor advised fund since 1997 to Federation and to other local organizations such as the Jewish Community Center, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jewish Family Service, BBYO, Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), the New Orleans Museum of Art, United Way, and Loyola Law School. They have also donated buildings and playgrounds to many schools and universities in the community and Morris’s pet charity – the Bart’s Bees program – encourages local schoolchildren to make good grades by rewarding achievement with public recognition and game tickets from the New Orleans Hornets professional basketball team.
Like her husband who is presently a member on the executive board of Federation, Cathy Bart has served on the boards of Federation, the ADL, Jewish Family Service, and the National BBYO and is a past member of the National Young Leadership Cabinet of the United Jewish Communities, now known as the Jewish Federations of North America. “I grew up with a strong sense of what it means to be Jewish. Our participation with Jewish Federation and all of its constituent agencies, our synagogues, our children’s schools, as well as many public schools in New Orleans, and many civic organizations, is our way of fulfilling our Jewish obligation of tzedakah.”
The two have instilled the responsibility and joy of giving to their children, Carrie, Michelle, and Jennifer, all of whom have become the next generation of philanthropists through JEF’s Young Philanthropy and B’nai Maimonides programs. Carrie and her husband, Austin Marks, are continuing the family tradition of activism with their involvement in Federation’s Campaign Cabinet. Austin Marks serves on the boards of Young Jews of the Crescent City, the Isidore Newman School Alumni Association and Breakthrough Collaborative New Orleans.
Born in Switzerland, Hertha grew up during the strife-filled years preceding and during World War II, a time of trouble for the Jews in Europe. She met her husband during the war when he was a pilot with the 82nd Airborne Division. “I knew what was going on and how my people were treated, and that alone is cause to give philanthropically. The identity of being Jewish means a great deal,” she states.
While living for a time in Knoxville, TN, she served as president of B’nai Brith, quite a feat for a woman. A woman of stature, Bart has been a model, a yoga instructor and was a secretary for many years at the Plimsoll Club before retiring. A longtime supporter of the local B’nai Brith chapter, she has also been a donor to Hadassah, the ADL, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
Vivian Bart Cahn, an interior designer and community activist, also continued the family tradition of giving back to the local community. “My father always told stories of how his father did so many good deeds in his community. My mother was a president of B’nai B’rith when we were growing up and my mother-in-law was involved in everything.” The Jewish philosophy of tikkun olam sums up Vivian’s outlook on giving: “It’s an obligation that we are duty bound to fulfill. I don’t even question helping out in various ways, philanthropy being one of them.”
Cahn was on the board and was campaign chair of Federation as well as on the boards of NCJW, National Women’s Philanthropy, Jewish Children’s Regional Service, Jewish Family Service, Israel Bonds, Hadassah, Brandeis National Women’s Committee, and many civic organizations including KIDsmART, City Park Botanical Garden Committee, Prospect New Orleans, Krewe du Vieux, Lead Lab, and was a YWCA Role Model.
With husband Richard Cahn the two have had a donor advised fund at JEF since 1980 and have also instilled in their progeny the meaning of charity. “Our son, David, now has his own philanthropic fund, and he makes distributions from it to those causes that he is interested in,” his mother beams. “I would like my son to understand that he has the power to make a difference and to use that power wisely. I want him to understand that ideally philanthropy involves more than writing a check; it involves some degree of understanding and taking action when you can,” Cahn says.
JEF executive Sandy Levy believes the Bart family is truly worthy of this award. “I have seen firsthand the meaningful and effective philanthropy of the Bart family,” she says. “They have taken a leadership role in charitable giving in New Orleans, and through JEF I have been privileged to assist them in those efforts.”
JEF president Charles A. “Rusty” Levy III concurs. “The New Orleans Jewish community, and the New Orleans community as a whole, is much better off because of the Barts. They give back with their time and resources to make this city a better place to live, work, and worship,” he says.
Also at the Annual Event, the Helen A. Mervis Jewish Community Professional Award will be presented to Catherine Kahn. This award, named in memory of JEF’s former executive director, is given annually to an outstanding professional employee of a Greater New Orleans Jewish community organization. Kahn has been the archivist of Touro Infirmary since she organized the archives in 1990. Extensively involved in the preservation and presentation of the history of New Orleans’ Jewish community, she is a past president of the Greater New Orleans Archivists and the Southern Jewish Historical Society, as well as serving on a number of other boards. “Cathy Kahn is a treasure. Her knowledge of the New Orleans Jewish community is extraordinary,” avers Levy.
A panel discussion on the fight against corruption in New Orleans, chaired by WVUE-TV investigative reporter Lee Zurik, with panelists Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission and New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevau will also be on the agenda, according to Annual Event chair Morton Katz. “With such deserving honorees and such a timely topic, we are looking forward to an extraordinary event,” he says.
For more information on the event or to inquire about their programs, call JEF at 540-524-4559.