DonorStrong: My Father’s Example

by JCPConnect-

Few family names are as synonymous with philanthropy in Memphis as Scheidt. From university buildings to the pages of innumerable non-profit annual reports, the name is a constant in our city, in the Jewish community and beyond.

When the family patriarch, Rudi Scheidt, Sr., of blessed memory, passed away this year after a lifetime of impactful giving, the next generation was ready to take the lead on the path that he had set.

In his lifetime, Rudi had taught his children valuable lessons about philanthropy, with three standing out as most profound. First, he demonstrated that it’s important to support the organizations and causes that are meaningful to you. Second, by being active on boards and committees, Rudi showed that philanthropy isn’t only giving money. Time is a valuable resource as well. And third, being seen by your community engaging in philanthropy is a vital part of teaching the next generations to give.

Follow your passion.

“My dad was always a philanthropist,” said Elkan Scheidt, Rudi’s son and philanthropic mentee. “An immigrant, he came to Memphis from Germany in 1936. He always felt very fortunate to be in this country and to be successful and he always thought it was important to give back. He instilled that in all of us, all of his children as a family. He was always exceedingly generous with causes that he believed in.”

Show up.

“My father would never miss a board meeting. He would be at everything. He always believed that philanthropy is more than money,” said Elkan “That’s what he believed and what he instilled in all of us. I sit on several boards, both in the Jewish community and outside of it. When my father passed, I was asked to join the Jewish Foundation of Memphis board and take his place. I already worked on Foundation’s Investment Committee, and now that I’ve taken my father’s seat on the board, I look forward to working with my peers to support our community’s Jewish institutions.”

Rudi Scheidt, Sr. never missed a board meeting.

Set an example.

“When he was younger in life, he did like many other people did, giving anonymously. As he became more successful and the amounts he gave grew, the gifts were still anonymous,” Elkan said. “One of his friends was an extraordinarily successful businessman and philanthropist, and he told my father: ‘Stop that right away. Rudi, you do too many good things in this world and you need to lead by example.’

“It really hit home with him. He stopped being Mr. Anonymous, and he started giving while allowing people to put his names on gifts. Not for the credit, but for the example it sets for other people in our community. He instilled that in us as well. It feels a little awkward, but he always said it doesn’t matter if you’re in the $50 range or in the highest range. The fact that you’re giving back shows that you care about your community.”

To learn more about Jewish Foundation of Memphis philanthropy, contact Sheri Gadberry at 901-374-0400 or

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