A haven for Jewish kids in Ukraine. Lasting funding for Rutgers Hillel. Groundbreaking support for Jewish day schools, camping, and Birthright Israel.
Projects like these and the donors who support them were the centerpiece June 12 as the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest launched “MetroWest Tomorrow,” a major effort to recognize and encourage donors who endow the Jewish causes they are most passionate about.
Distinct from the annual campaign of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, the foundation’s parent body, MetroWest Tomorrow will focus on “programmatic endowments” in three main areas, or “pillars”: Jewish continuity, community, and connection.
MetroWest Tomorrow will also be distinct from UJC MetroWest’s Lester Society, which recognizes donors whose endowments of $100,000 or more are unrestricted and benefit the United Jewish Appeal of MetroWest.
The organizers’ goal is to raise more than $100 million over the next few years in programmatic endowments. Already, donors have contributed $70 million in current or future commitments to such programs as Birthright Israel, which sends young Jews on free identity-building trips to Israel; PJ Library, which gets Jewish books and music into the hands of young families; and MetroTransport, a transportation program for seniors.
The “enduring” campaign was launched publicly on Sunday at the Aidekman campus in Whippany with the unveiling of an interactive tribute kiosk in the lobby of the complex, and a keynote address by prominent Jewish sociologist Steven M. Cohen (see sidebar).
The donor-recognition display features the names of more than 100 MetroWest families who have made commitments of $100,000 or more to the campaign.
The ceremony marked the public launch of what had been a gradual unveiling that included a number of dramatic philanthropic efforts, including the MetroWest Day School Campaign, the Jewish Camp Enterprise, and an endowment in support of Birthright Israel (see sidebar).
Among the 100 or so attendees were families who have already created endowments of $100,000 or more dedicated to their favored projects; they included members of three families who have committed more than $10 million each: Leah and Ed Frankel of North Caldwell and Jupiter, Fla., Paula and Jerry Gottesman of Morristown, and Daniel and Jane Och of Scarsdale.
“This new campaign is very important for our community and will be a model national campaign — as are many things we do in MetroWest,” said JCF president Ken Heyman.
Heyman said MetroWest Tomorrow represents a closer collaboration between MetroWest’s annual UJA campaign and its endowment arm than was possible in years past.
“This couldn’t have happened five or 10 years ago,” he said. “Now, the level of communication between the annual campaign and the foundation is virtually seamless.”
Heyman, who is a senior vice president and wealth adviser with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, said the campaign was created in response to two factors: the desire of donors to strengthen their legacies and help ensure the future strength of the Jewish community, and a national trend that has philanthropists of all ages wanting to target their giving more specifically to causes or projects for which they have a passion and that meet community needs.
The donor-recognition kiosk, featuring a touch-screen computer display, already recognizes major givers who have created such endowments, including the three whose contributions are in excess of $10 million. They are the Frankels, whose endowment supports Tikva, a system of homes and schools for disadvantaged and abandoned children in Odessa, Ukraine; the Gottesmans, who spearheaded the day school campaign and the Jewish camp enterprise and are major supporters of the Friendship Circle; and Daniel and Jane Och, whose 2010 gift to the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union was among the largest endowment gifts ever to a Jewish day school. The school was renamed the Gold Och Academy in memory of Daniel’s mother.
The kiosk also recognizes two endowments of $5 million, including one by Dr. Lynne B Harrison of Union, whose commitment supports her own synagogue, Temple Sholom of West Essex in Cedar Grove, as well as Rutgers Hillel and the international Hillel movement; and a second by the Coopermans, Toby and Leon and Jodi and Wayne, whose Cooperman Family Fund for a Jewish Future endows Birthright Israel for young adults, Jewish summer camps for youngsters, and mitzva projects for teens.
The campaign’s initial focus is on major philanthropic families; eventually, those leading the campaign say they would like to see a broader-based culture of legacy and endowment giving.
UJC MetroWest executive vice president Max Kleinman described MetroWest Tomorrow as an ongoing effort “that will complement the highly successful Lester Society, which to date has raised over $100 million to help sustain the UJA Campaign. MetroWest Tomorrow will develop endowments for those programs and agencies that ‘touch’ donors the most.”
He called the campaign “our community’s effort to galvanize donors’ passions and perpetuate their dreams today and for future generations.”
Those “future generations” are central to the campaign’s vision, Kleinman and others said. The campaign is also hoping to encourage the current donors’ adult children — many already involved in young leadership programs — to fund causes of their own as well as those supported by their parents.
The grandchildren are also being welcomed on board: A MetroWest Tomorrow teen philanthropy program, Iris Teen Tzedakah, involves young Jewish adults — 36 each year — in hands-on learning about charitable giving and Jewish values.