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Federation creates ‘lasting legacy’ for the Jewish community
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Federation creates ‘lasting legacy’ for the Jewish community

Young donors are committing to the future

Life & Legacy chair Michael Wasserman, right, presents a certificate to RPRY board member Hillel Raymon in recognition of his service on the school’s Life & Legacy committee. Photo courtesy Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ
Life & Legacy chair Michael Wasserman, right, presents a certificate to RPRY board member Hillel Raymon in recognition of his service on the school’s Life & Legacy committee. Photo courtesy Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ

For members of Generation X the future is now. A growing number of those aged 40-55 are gifting Jewish communal organizations in their estate planning, according to Paul Rovinsky, federation Jewish community foundation director.

“People of that generation are starting to think of giving planned gifts,” he said “Anyone can make a planned gift without impacting their lifestyle or family’s future. With a planned gift you can still take care of your family while also leaving something to an organization you care about in the community, whether it’s children being able to attend a day school or preserving history in a museum. That’s the beauty of a planned gift.”

Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey has completed the first year of a four-year program benefitting Jewish institutions. So far the Life & Legacy initiative has secured $4.5 million from 160 gifts.

“We are averaging about $25,000 per gift so we’re talking about millions in perpetuity,” said program chair Michael Wasserman of Highland Park. “That’s what excites me so much. These institutions will have a healthy part of their annual budgets taken care of.”

The gifts are earmarked by donors to one of nine partner organizations, synagogues, or institutions participating in the program, which is being jointly funded by the federation and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

“Research shows that only organizations that have a significant percentage of their budget coming from endowments are likely to endure, “ said Wasserman, adding that the figure for endowments should be between 20 and 25 percent of the annual budget.

Ten teams from the federation and from each of the participating institutions’ staff and volunteers have received training in how to establish these funds.

The participating institutions are: Congregation B’nai Israel, Rumson; Congregation B’nai Tikvah, North Brunswick; Congregation Neve Shalom, Metuchen; Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva, Edison; Rutgers Hillel, New Brunswick; Temple B’nai Shalom, East Brunswick; Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County, Freehold; Monmouth Reform Temple, Tinton Falls; and Highland Park Conservative Temple-Congregation Anshe Emeth.

“We’ve found a lot of people who are very connected to federation are also connected to many other institutions in our community,” said Rovinsky. “The beautiful thing is that there is a nice ratio of people giving gifts to multiple organizations. We’re seeing a lot of cross-pollination.”

Rovinsky, a former president of the Jewish Family Service of Middlesex County, recalled that that organization was left a six-figure bequest that “made a huge difference.”

Zach Gilstein, who is president and part of the team at Monmouth Reform Temple, said his synagogue joined because its leaders “saw it as a way to help us perpetuate our mission and solidify our future.”

The training by the Grinspoon Foundation provided added incentive, he said. 

“We obtained our objective of 18 donors and my guess is that they committed about $25,000 to $50,000,” he said. “We have several others interested as well. It’s really been a nice conversation to have. In the beginning, we talked to people we felt had a strong connection to the temple, and people were very receptive. Some didn’t see how they would be able to do it, but others committed to sustaining the next generation.”

Gilstein said the synagogue already has a Rabbi Sally J. Priesand Endowment Fund for general needs, created about 10 years ago when its former religious leader retired, and is in the process of creating an endowment for its religious school. 

Rovinsky labeled it “a misconception” that preparation for making a planned gift is complicated. “Under our program you sign a non-legally binding letter of intent, or name an individual organization in your will. It’s a very simple thing to do,” he said.

“The goal of the foundation and federation is to enhance a culture in our community of planned giving,” he said, adding they are helping with training, marketing, and consultation to other organizations and institutions not part of the grant partnership to assist them in launching their own endowment fund. It is expected at the end of four years the nine partners will continue on their own.

RPRY president Leslie Ostrin said the school wanted to be part of the partnership not only to secure its future, but also because of its strong relationship with federation. 

“We’ve been partners with them so many years, we wanted to work with them,” she said. “We also realize an endowment is key to our financial stability. To us tuition affordability is an important thing, as it is to any Jewish day school. This was an unbelievable opportunity to ramp up and train us through this legacy gift in securing that financial stability. So far, it’s been very successful.”

Ostrin said helping the school attract donors is its reputation as “a pillar of the community.” After the school was established almost 75 years ago, she said, the large Orthodox community in Highland Park and south Edison “built around it.”

“Now there are many other wonderful day schools in the area, but 75 years ago we were the only one, so there’s a lot of support for the school in the community.”

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