Couple Shares Their Philanthropic Inspiration With HMH
Rhona and Bruce Caress met at a Bar Mitzvah when they were both with other people, but that didn’t prevent them from connecting and becoming partners in life and marriage for more than 30 years.
Each grew up with challenges and struggles, yet through hard work, perseverance and determination, they quickly became a couple the Houston community and numerous organizations have counted on, in many meaningful ways.
Rhona, a Montreal native, was born to a Russian mother and a Canadian father. She grew up in an orthodox Jewish home, kept kosher and had a family who propagated her great interest in Israel.
She moved to Houston in 1976, and went through a tumultuous divorce. She turned to Congregation Beth Yeshurun and Rabbi Jack Segal, “who made it possible on every level for me and my young son to survive,” Rhona says.
She began working in construction industry sales and quickly became a success. When she was able, she bought Jewish bonds and took her first trip to Israel in 1998.
“I was transformed,” she recalls. “I immediately saw there must be a State of Israel, and it is our responsibility to keep it alive,” she proclaims.
Bruce, originally from New York, moved to Houston in 1956 as a young boy.
“I came from a poor family and had a difficult childhood, but early on, had the innate fortitude and desire to succeed,” he states.
He entered the Big Brother program when he was 13, and was greatly influenced by Leon Samet, and his partner, Leon Mucasey, who he went to work for at Rental Management and L&L Management Company when he was 21.
“Both men gave me my keen business acumen and Leon’s travels to Israel helped shape my feelings about the country. I am a conservative Jew who is not religious, but I’m very Jewish in my heart,” he explains. “I have long felt we need to actively perpetuate Judaism, or it will disappear.”
He entered the carpet business in his late 20s and opened Redi Carpet, now in 23 cities, in 1981.
“I was very diligent, persistent and determined to excel,” he states. “One of my three sons just became CEO of the company on January 1, and I am proud we are keeping the business in the family,” he proclaims.
Since Bruce’s retirement from the company, the couple stays active traveling, taking numerous trips to Israel and have recently stepped up their philanthropic work, in general.
“We have been involved in the Holocaust Museum Houston since 1996, and I’ve been a member of the board over the years,” adds Bruce. “As members of the Museum’s Legacy Society, we strongly believe in the Museum’s mission to eradicate hatred and document survivor’s stories. We must educate future generations to perpetuate the truth, no matter what. It is a vital and important organization.”
The Caresses have also supported many other organizations, including AIPAC (where they are members of the top-level Minion Club), Aishel House, Seven Acres, Make-A-Wish Foundation, The Jewish Federation, Wounded Warriors, World Vision and Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces. They underwrote The Rhona and Bruce Caress Family Campus at Congregation Beth Yeshurun, and the Caress Stadium at the Emery/Weiner School (built on the same land where Bruce had lived in his youth). They were honored at the Joe Dinner at Emery/Weiner, and were proud to watch their kids plan the event and secure donations—a value they hope they’ve passed on through their years of gifting and supporting.
“Seeing our children begin to do what we have been doing philanthropically inspires us to continue doing more,” claims Rhona. “It’s a time in our lives when we can step up and witness what a difference it can make.”
“We both feel incredibly blessed,” adds Bruce. “Giving back makes us feel good about ourselves and our legacy, and we like that. And I think it ensures five minutes of immortality.”
The Power to Make a Difference
Like Rhona and Bruce, you, too, can make a powerful difference philanthropically by supporting the Holocaust Museum Houston. Simply contact Stephanie Dugan, CAP® at 713-527-1629 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get started today.