Donation from Sydelle Sonkin, a former educator, shapes a future where Jewish traditions flourish, offering a beacon of resilience amidst increasing antisemitism in Palm Beach County

February 12, 2024

As the Jewish community in the Palm Beaches emerges as one of the largest and fastest growing in North America, we proudly announce that philanthropist, leader and former high school biology teacher, Sydelle B. Sonkin of Palm Beach Gardens, has made an inspiring gift of $5 million. Sonkin’s generosity is the latest landmark announcement of Federation’s Campaign for the Future, the boldest fundraising effort in Jewish Palm Beach’s history with a $250 million goal by 2026 to support the Jewish community’s growing needs today, tomorrow and forever.

In recognition, Federation renamed its signature Women’s Philanthropy event to the Sydelle Sonkin Lions’ Pride Event, honoring Sonkin’s remarkable dedication to Jewish life and female-driven philanthropy. The announcement was made to over 400 philanthropists at the annual event on February 12, held at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.

A former high school science teacher dedicated to lifelong Jewish learning, Sonkin emphasizes Federation’s focus on providing powerful Jewish educational experiences for all ages. This is especially critical amid an alarming rise of antisemitism, particularly in environments where younger generations can be dissuaded from expressing their Jewish identity.

I’m passionate about many causes in the Jewish community, especially education. We need to support our youth, provide innovative Jewish experiences for all ages, and expand to meet growing needs. I’m proud to call Jewish Palm Beach home and feel responsible for its continued impact.

About Sydelle and Her Gift

Sonkin’s engagement with Jewish Federations began in Detroit in the 1970s alongside Sheldon. Together, they embarked on a mission to Israel for emerging leaders, and soon after, she became a Lion of Judah, representing the most dynamic philanthropic Jewish women globally. After relocating to Palm Beach Gardens nearly two decades ago, she immersed herself in the local Jewish community.

Sonkin serves as Chair of Federation’s Friedman Commission for Jewish Education (CJE). She is also part of our Campaign for the Future Cabinet and the Jewish Palm Beach Leadership Circle, and former Chair of Women’s Philanthropy.

Sonkin’s generous donation, spanning multi-year commitments and new endowments, aims to enrich Jewish learning experiences across all stages of life. From young children at Mandel JCC of the Palm Beaches to Pre-K-8th grade students at Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Preparatory School, and college students at Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach, to young adults through Birthright Israel, her impact is far-reaching. Additionally, Sonkin supports accessible genetic screening via Federation’s JScreen, enhances the local community through the Palm Beach Center to Combat Antisemitism & Hatred, and champions mental health services through Alpert Jewish Family Service.

Her philanthropy extends to the Stacey & Mark Levy Center for Israel & Overseas, providing sustained aid to Israel following the October 7 terror attacks, and supporting Budapest, Palm Beaches’ partner community, once nearly decimated but now a thriving center of Jewish life. Furthermore, Sonkin’s gift establishes a Priority Fund for Education and bolsters Federation’s Annual Campaign, addressing urgent needs locally, in Israel, and vulnerable Jewish communities worldwide.

Sonkin’s remarkable gift also honors the enduring legacy of her beloved husband, Sheldon, who passed away in 2006, and symbolizes their shared dedication for Jewish causes.

Her commitment establishes her as one of Campaign for the Future’s Founding Community Visionaries, recognizing donors who commit $1 million or more to the Campaign. Click here to see the latest listing of our Founding Community Visionaries.

“The Perfect Opportunity”

Campaign for the Future gives me the perfect opportunity to support various organizations I believe in with one major gift, which I am proud to make for our community.

Sonkin’s contribution is part of Campaign for the Future, the largest fundraising campaign in Jewish Palm Beach’s history. This comprehensive fundraising campaign, of which William A. Meyer serves as Chair, seeks to grow annual fundraising for today, increase the number of multi-year pledges for tomorrow, and create new endowments to support our community forever. 

To discuss your involvement in this bold effort, contact your Federation representative or Matt Kernkraut, Chief Development Officer, at matt@jewishpalmbeach.org.