The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles is proud to recognize Helgard and Irwin S. Field with our Jewish Community Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala evening in their honor on September 17th. This award is given to leaders whose dedication and philanthropy have made a lasting impact on the community we love.
Helgard and Irwin S. Field’s individual origin stories could not be more different, yet their beliefs and mindsets could not be more similar. Perhaps it was a parallel penchant for passionate activism and volunteerism that drew them to one another. Bound by this common desire to make the world a better place, they have each made outstanding contributions to the community prior to and over the course of their 35-year union.
From humble beginnings in Germany, Helgard grew up without luxuries like a structured school setting or clothing beyond the most basic. World news was transmitted weekly via megaphone in her small, sheltered village. A testament to her determination and strength, she discovered and acted on opportunities to receive formal education in larger cities like Frankfurt and Paris. She subsequently secured employment as an air hostess for a major airline. She built a life and family for herself with her late husband. Helgard met Irwin at a Jewish leadership conference in 1980 in London, and they married two years later.
Helgard has been an active member of and volunteer for various organizations, such as the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Israel Museum, the Museum Service Council and The Rifkind Center at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Gamla Nature Reserve in Israel, the Tel Aviv Museum, and Tel Aviv University. An accomplished woman in her own right, she has always been a source of support for her husband and partner during his prolific professional and lay career.
Irwin was raised in a Zionistic household by parents who included him from an early age in their charitable efforts. He was in charge of setting up chairs in his family’s Detroit basement for meetings run by his parents for organizations like Hadassah and Technion and their local synagogue. Irwin’s first visit to Israel in 1951 at the age of 16 made a great impression on him — he was excited by the potential of what Israel could become. Also of profound impact was the experience of attending 3 different Jewish summer camps up until the age of 17, which formed most of his early life. He met his late wife at UCLA and they married in 1957, followed by participation in young leadership missions to Israel and a host of other events that ultimately led him to Helgard.
Irwin’s long-standing relationship with The Jewish Federation started when he, only a teen, accompanied his father to a Federation meeting and was inspired to make his very first donation. From there, the list of his contributions goes on and on. He was our Campaign Chair in 1973 and 1974, our Federation’s President in 1995 and 1996, and, over the past four decades, has served in top leadership positions at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, United Jewish Fund Endowment, United Jewish Appeal (UJA), UJA National Young Leadership Cabinet (which he helped create), United Way of Los Angeles, Occidental College, and a variety of other local, national, and international organizations. Irwin currently serves as a member of our Federation’s Community Engagement Committee. These standings are all in addition to his remarkable place in the business world, indicating the type of well-rounded, dedicated leader with whom Federation has been fortunate to collaborate.
Helgard and Irwin believe intensely in Federation, as together they “support the causes that help perpetuate the traditions and artistic expressions of our community. Central to those is the Federation, which has always had a key role — to maintain the social fabric of the Jewish community.” This focal belief, their shared love of Israel, and their deep commitment to philanthropy have dictated their substantial community involvement over the years and created an extraordinary legacy for the generations that follow them.
When not in constant motion on behalf of others, the high-powered duo enjoys their four children Ronald (Janice), Beatrice (Peter), Judith, and Peter (Sarah), their 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. The memory of Irwin’s son Edward Fieldz”l lives on in the hearts of the entire family and all who knew him.
To reflect several of the Fields’ charitable passions, proceeds from this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award Gala Dinner will support our Federation’s new Special Needs Engagement Fund, created thanks to Irwin’s vision. Leveraging our existing partnerships, the Fund will increase our ability to provide greater access to programs for Jewish children and teens with special needs. It will also foster new partnerships that will enhance daily life and inclusion in the Jewish community, provide families with opportunities to interact with and find support in one another, and create an overall sense of belonging. Heavy emphasis will be placed on making scholarships available for summer camp experiences for families who would not otherwise be able to provide such opportunities for their children. Speaking from personal experience, Irwin shared, “I believe in informal education — more than formal education — with other Jews. It’s organic, not artificial, and has a tremendous impact on young people’s lives. Helgard and I want to make sure as many children in our community as possible have the opportunity to experience Jewish summer camp.”
We are proud to call the Fields our partners and friends, and we hope you will join us to honor them at our 2017 Jewish Community Lifetime Achievement Award Gala Dinner on Sunday, September 17th, at The Beverly Hilton Hotel.
For more information about our Gala Dinner, please contact Lainie Polland at (323) 761-8234 or LPolland@JewishLA.org.