By Stephanie Bolmer
Editor’s note: We continue our series on individuals who have laid the foundations for the future of the Lehigh Valley Jewish community through their generosity this month by featuring Dr. Mickey and Eileen Ufberg.
Dr. Mickey and Eileen Ufberg didn’t grow up in the Lehigh Valley, but they have fully embraced it as their home for over 50 years.
“The community was so welcoming and so friendly that I got a terrific job offer in Philadelphia a few months after we moved here, and I said no,” recalled Mickey. “We were very happy here. I wouldn’t trade a minute of our life here.”
“We have loved our life here. It has been amazing,” Eileen agreed.
Still living in the home in which they raised their five children, all attendees of the Jewish Day School of the Lehigh Valley, the Ufbergs have also been long-active members of Congregation Sons of Israel and relentless supporters of the Jewish Federation.
“From the very beginning, I could tell that Mickey and Eileen were exceptional, fine people. They have a unique ability to make a dimly illuminated room seem well-lit with their smiles, vivacity and positive, can-do attitude,” said SOI’s Rabbi Nisan Andrews.
It’s this attitude that they take into all of their work for the Lehigh Valley Jewish community. In addition to being members of SOI, Mickey has been president of both JDS and Federation. Eileen has also served on the Federation board as well as chaired their Women’s Philanthropy board and received the George Feldman Achievement Award for Young Leadership. And they are both dedicated volunteers to the Federation’s Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs.
“How fortunate are we to have people like the Ufbergs in our community. They are not only warm and caring but they also bring a great sense of humor and can always be counted on. They understand the meaning of philanthropy and are wonderful community cheerleaders,” said Federation Executive Director Jeri Zimmerman of the couple.
A retired doctor who served on the Lehigh Valley Hospital medical board and chaired their GI department, whose four sons are all doctors as well, Mickey was one of the founding members of the Federation’s Maimonides Society. When she wasn’t busy at home with the kids, Eileen was a docent at Allentown Art Museum and served as the first female president of the Parkland School Board. Now, they enjoy having free time to visit with their 16 grandchildren.
“I just love the people that they are and what they’ve taught their children, and now their grandchildren, about morals and ethics. They’ve created the most wonderful family, who they’ve taught all to be mensches and to be active in their community. They really are an unbelievable couple. Never once in all these years, whenever we became involved, if I ever asked them to come to something or give or participate, they never have said no, never,” said Vicki Wax, a long-time friend and co-laborer in volunteering with the Ufbergs. “Mickey and Eileen were sort of our guideposts to philanthropy from the very beginning.”
While Wax claims that the Ufbergs had a huge impact on her own philanthropy, the Ufbergs give credit to those who came before them, showing that the simple act of giving of yourself really can make an impact as it ripples on into the future.
“I was exposed to some very involved people in our first few years here,” remembered Mickey. “They really coaxed me into devoting a portion of my time to Jewish affairs. And when I think about it, my father was president of his shul, and my mother was president of Hadassah. It’s in my family, and I got involved very early, and I loved it.”
Eileen's family were also very active in different Jewish circles. Overall, the Ufbergs are hailed as a paradigm for community involvement because they put into practice what they learned from their own role models.
“It was all done for us when we got here, everything that made it such a wonderful community and made such a wonderful life for our family,” said Mickey. “We were led by some prominent people, and we felt a responsibility to do a little for the next generation. And now our children feel the same way and are leaders in their own communities. The more you have, the more responsibility you have. And, we feel we have everything.”