Larry Frank is quick to deflect attention when asked about receiving the Lifetime of Achievement Award from the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta on Wednesday, June 7.
He speaks about his wife, Lois, whom he met through his roommate after graduating Vanderbilt, while she was still a student at Emory. “Lois is working all the time. She’s always at some committee meeting or another. Matter of fact, she left the house at 9 this morning, and I don’t even know where she is.”
He tells of the accomplishments of his four sons, to whom he and Lois have passed their love of Israel and Jewish identity. All in the family contribute to the Frank Family Foundation, which supports causes related to Israel and the Jewish people, including education, identity, continuity and survival, as well as other charitable organizations, the majority of which help other people in the name of Jews, such as American Jewish World Service and IsraAID.
Anyone who knows the Franks understands that their work for social justice and the community is a combined effort, often in conjunction with the family foundation, created “while the kids were still young” (they are now 40 to 50), with an eye on, and in support of, Israel.
Recruited from Jewish Community Relations Councils across the country, the fellows participate in preparatory classes before traveling with staff to Poland and Israel. After their return, they attend the JCPA plenum and participate in follow-up calls to mentor them toward leadership on a national level.
In Atlanta, the Franks’ son Isaac leads an annual foundation-sponsored trip to Israel for 15 people ages 35 to 45 with a “Jewish heart,” interest and leadership ability. In the hope that they form a connection to the land, the only requirement is that they become involved in Jewish life upon their return.
The Atlanta Frank Family Foundation Israel missions have had 45 participants to date. Now engaged with organizations ranging from Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and AIPAC to the Israel Sports Center for the Disabled, the alums are networked and supportive of one another’s causes.
Frank credits his mother and her devotion to Hadassah for helping form his “Jewish heart.” He grew up with an oversize picture of Henrietta Szold in the living room. That and his early travels to Israel solidified his commitment to the land.
In memory of Frank’s mother, the foundation recently funded a Poland and Israel trip for 17 Hadassah leaders around the country.
“It’s amazing what going to Israel does for a person,” he said, telling of the impact of his United Jewish Appeal trip one week after the Six-Day War in June 1967 and of his subsequent trips while Israel was “fighting for its life.”
Frank said the experience “changes people’s lives and lets them realize what Israel’s all about and what being Jewish is all about. … Israel is the heart of the Jewish people.”
After receiving the Federation Young Leadership award in 1969, Frank served as one of four national regional chairs of UJA from 1970 to 1973. Simultaneously, he was Federation campaign chair in 1971 and Israel Bonds Southeast regional chair from 1971 to 1974.
The Frank family now helps develop strong organizational leadership across the country.
Larry and Lois now have their own place in Israel. Their son Adam is a Conservative rabbi in Jerusalem, and they visit about four times a year. Their granddaughter’s bat mitzvah last month was “a good reason to go to Israel,” Larry said.
He said that receiving the Lifetime of Achievement Award from Federation was a large surprise.
Said Lois about Larry, “He’s very low profile, very humble.” She said he has passed along great values to their children, and “he feels blessed, fortunate, and has always been very modest about it. That’s what makes him so special.”