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Jewish Telegraphic Agency
San Jose, Calif:,
n the past two years, the Manuel
& Rhoda D. Mayerson
Foundation of Cincinnati has
plummeted in value by $4 mil-
lion. Yet the $20 million foundation
this year is expanding its Jewish giving,
which amounts to about one-third of its
The foundation, launched 15 years
ago, funds Cincinnati efforts such as
Dor L' Dor, which brings seniors to
Jewish day schools to lecture, and
Kesher, a network for Jews with disabili-
Neal Mayerson, son of the founders,
says the foundation has escaped tough
economic times in part because the
family remains active in the real-estate
business. Thus the group hasn't seen its
assets wither in the souring stock mar-
ket as have many of the estimated 7,000
Jewish family foundations.
"It's business as usual for us," says the
folindation's director of Jewish giving,
For other Jewish family foundations,
however, it's anything but. From the
$180 million Walter & Elise Haas Fund
in San Francisco, whose ancestors built
the Levi Strauss jeans company, to rela-
tively modest upstarts such as the $1
million Joshua Venture, Jewish founda-
tion assets are getting buffeted by the
bear market. Many foundations, it
seems, are digging in for a long fiscal
storm, either limiting their annual
grants or narrowing their overall scope.
"By and large, asset bases are way
down, and most funds allocate off their
asset base," said Mark Charendoff, pres-
ident of the Jewish Funders Network,
which serves as the unofficial clearing-
house for Jewish foundations and the
non-federation philanthropic world.
The declining stock market served as
the backdrop to this year's 13th annual
conference of the Jewish Funders
Network, which earlier this month drew
some 300 representatives of Jewish fam-
ily foundations, large and small, to San
Jose, Calif., to peer into the future of
Jewish foundation philanthropy.
So far, no one has compiled any pre-
cise data gauging the economy's impact
on the Jewish foundation world. Yet
anecdotal evidence from the conference,
one informal survey of participants and
one larger study of the wider family
foundation world show everyone is
hunkering down for tougher times. And
increasingly for Jewish causes, that mat-
The community still relies on the tradi-
tional organized federation world for
support, but the more entrepreneurial
family foundations have become the
alternative form of philanthropy.
The United Jewish Communities, the
umbrella of 156 federations and 400
smaller communities in North America,
raised $840 million in 2002 and an
additional $328 million for its Israel
Emergency Fund, according to Michael
Fisher, a consultant for the UJC.
In 2003, the federations have already
secured $566 million in general pledges
by Passover, Fisher said. Despite a
"lousy" economy, he said, "when Jews
are in need, Jews dig deep and come up
with big bucks."
The Jewish Federation of •
Metropolitan Detroit announced cut-
backs last week because of a drop in its
rainy day funds, despite a near record
An e-mail survey of foundation con-
ference participants by the Jewish
Funders Network found that of 180
foundations that replied, 27 of them,
representing $161.3 million in funding
in 2002, expected their allocations to
shrink to nearly $134 million in 2003,
a drop of 17 percent.
When asked how they were dealing
with the economy, the highest number
— 35 percent — said they would be
cutting the number of grants they
awarded in 2003, while only 11 percent
said they would award more grants this
year. The rest said the number of grants
would remain the same.
Of those survey participants, 19 per-
cent also said they would be narrowing
their philanthropic mission, while 3
percent said they would be expanding
As Charendoff sees it, foundations are
taking two main paths. "Either you're
viewing this as a time of crisis, and
you're hunkering down and wondering
about preserving, or you're viewing this