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June 05, 1987 - Image 45

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-06-05

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Jewish institutions are taking
a long-range look at
their financial survival


Staff Writer

ocal Jewish institutions are
busy finding new ways to
ensure their survival in a
with a diminish-
ing, aging population whose
needs are continually expanding.
Synagogues, day schools and especial-
ly the Jewish Welfare Federation have
seized upon endowment funds as the
best way to gain a foothold to the
"Most institutions cannot rely on
annual fund raising to maintain their
level of operations," explains George
M. Zeltzer, chairman of Federation's
endowment program. "If they have
endowments, they don't have to go
back to the donor again. It's a perma-
nent source of revenue that doesn't
have to be resolicited."
Endowments are donations to an
institution during one's lifetime or in
one's will. Such funds can be
unrestricted — outright gifts and be-
quests for general purposes to be
decided by the receiving institution —
or restricted — funds to support a par-
ticular program or service determin-
ed by the terms of the gift or in wills
or bequests.
Another type of endowment is a
philanthropic fund, "a kind of
charitable bank account;' according

to Joseph Imberman, director of
Federation's endowment program. A
donor is allowed to take a tax deduc-
tion on his gift and retains the right
to make suggestions on how the funds
are to be used. "When (the donor) is
gone, the assets will come into our
general funds," Imberman says.
In an endowment fund, the gift
(corpus) is invested and the earnings
are used to pay for the creation of new
projects, for expanding old ones or, in
extreme cases, to bridge an institu-
tion's current budget deficits.
The Jewish Welfare Federation's
endowment is $82 million, according
to Imberman. This is money con-
tributed in addition to the annual
Allied Jewish Campaign solicitation.
The corpus is invested in a varie-
ty of stocks and bonds. Israel Bonds
make up between ten and 15 percent
of the Federation's portfolio, Imber-
man says. At an annual return of
about nine percent, endowments
bring in over $7 million for use in the
activities of Federation and its
A lay committee of about 200
oversees the endowments. An accoun-
ting department keeps track of all the
funds and an advisory service, hired
by the lay committee, tracks the per-
formance of the investments. '
Nationally, Detroit's Federation
endowment ranks fifth in size, behind

New York, Cleveland, Baltimore and
Chicago, according to the Council of
Jewish Federations.
At least ten area synagogues have
set up endowment funds or have them
on the drawing board. They range in
size and scope from Cong. Beth
Achim, whose three $10,000 - to
$30,000 endowments fund three
study scholarships, to Cong. Shaarey
Zedek, which is, according to Rabbi Ir-
win Groner, two-thirds of the way to
its ambitious $10 million endowment
According to David Hermelin,
chairman of Shaarey Zedek's endow-
ment campaign, the congregation
hopes to fund a long list of educa-
tional and cultural programs through
endowments to serve congregants
ranging in age from toddlers to
seniors. Endowments would also
maintain the synagogue building and
fund the synagogue's library.
Endowments are essential, he
says, to take the burden of funding the
synagogue away from membership
dues. "Our single biggest challenge is
attracting the affiliated and allow af-
filiation to be at a price for young
families to be able to afford?'
Other congregations' endowments
are barely off the ground. Adat
Shalom Synagogue's plan for a $3
million endowment "has not been ful-
ly launched to the congregation," says

president Irwin Alterman. Full-scale
solicitation is planned for the fall.
Temple Beth El, too, has not yet
presented its endowment scheme to
the congregation. Temple Israel plans
to use a $75,000 bequest from the late
Rabbi Leon Fram as the seed for an
endowment fund whose goals will be
determined "within a year," according -
to administrator Frank L. Simons.

W by have institutions recently
turned to endowments en
masse? While United Jewish
Charities forerunner of Federation
— accepted its first gifts in 1901, most
local endowments have been set up
only in the last two or three years.
The concept of endowment is cer-
tainly an ancient one. The Talmud
relates the tale of a rabbi who comes
upon an old man planting a carob
tree. "Will you live to see this tree
bear fruit?" the skeptical sage asks.
To which the old man answers:
"When I came into the world, I
found carob trees. Just as my father
planted for me, I plant for my son."
Congregations have recently
established endowments because on-
ly in the last few years have they
been able to turn their attention from
other matters. "Ten or 15 years ago,
synagogues were in the process of
constructing synagogues," says Rab-

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