The Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County has launched a campaign in conjunction with area synagogues, day schools, and Jewish agencies and institutions to encourage supporters to secure bequests and endowments.
The goal, organizers said, is to create a “lasting legacy” for future generations.
“We want to ensure that the strong vibrant Jewish community of today will be there in years to come,” said Rachel Ingber, the federation’s financial resource development director. “This builds for the future by supporting past work and ensures the future financial health and stability through a communitywide effort to secure bequests and endowments. It promotes the message that all of us have the ability to make a difference in the lives of future generations.”
The Create a Jewish Legacy campaign, patterned after campaigns instituted by Jewish federations across the country, was officially unveiled on Jan. 11 at the federation’s South River offices.
The campaigns, in addition to the annual fund-raising drives, encourage supporters to set aside a portion of their estates for a charitable gift in a will or a living trust.
Describing those model efforts was Joslin LeBauer, director of the Create a Jewish Legacy program and Network Planned Giving and Endowments for the Jewish Federations of North America.
For example, she said, trained synagogue “legacy team” members seeking bequests for their own institutions may determine that a donor has strong ties to a local day school. In turn, the day school may find that the donor also feels a strong connection to the Jewish Family & Vocational Service.
“Communities build and strengthen because of the relationships that develop,” said LeBauer, who is based in Atlanta. A community-wide approach emphasizes that “we’re all in this together in planning for our children so that we can leave this as vibrant a Jewish community as we found it.”
Different institutions will have different challenges, but it never hurts to plant the seeds of estate planning.
“When you have a child you have to have a will,” she explained, “so they’re really not too young to begin estate planning.”
Moreover, once someone feels a strong enough bond to leave an endowment, they rarely change their minds over the passage of time.
Discussions with children or grandchildren about a decision to leave 5 percent of an estate to the Jewish community, LeBauer said, makes for “interesting Shabbat dinner table conversation.” The Middlesex federation’s Legacy committee chair, Michael Wassermann, said a community demographic study commissioned by federation more than two years ago identified creating an endowment campaign as a “major strategic goal.”
Wassermann said the committee met with LeBauer and then spent many months customizing the plan.
All funds raised will be held in separate accounts by the federation’s Jewish community foundation, overseen by an endowment investment committee and full-time independent professional money managers. The funds can be used only for institutions for which they are earmarked.
The director of each recipient organization will be notified when a gift is received by the foundation and receive quarterly reports from federation on its fund.
“I think this sense of community building is phenomenal,” said Ruth Anne Koenick, president of Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick. “I think people in this room have started a conversation. I want to thank federation for taking the leadership on this.”
For more information on the Create a Jewish Legacy program, contact Ingber at 732-588-1800.