Robert Russell set up the Robert Russell Memorial Foundation as a trust, to be activated upon his death. The foundation began operation in 1984 following the death of Bob. From 1984 through 2012 the foundation has provided grants totaling in excess of $29 million to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, primarily for programs in Israel and in the Jewish community of Miami.
Robert Russell was a major leader of the Jewish community in Miami, nationally and in Israel. In Miami, he served as President and Campaign Chair of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Nationally, he served for many years as a National Vice Chairman of United Jewish Appeal. In Israel, he served on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He was the first national chairman of Project Renewal and at the time of his death in 1983 he was President of the Israel Education Fund.
Bob was the principal force behind the creation of the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in Miami, named in memory of his daughter and only child, who was killed in an Eastern Airlines crash in 1972.
Bob decided to perpetuate his philanthropy through the creation of the Robert Russell Memorial Foundation which continues to give generous support to many Jewish institutions around the world.