Who plants trees knowing they’ll never eat the fruit themselves? The Jewish people, that’s who. Jewish tradition exhorts us since our earliest days to recount the story of a man who plants selflessly for the generations to come. When we give through bequests and estate gifts to our Jewish community, we plant not just trees but a forest. We demonstrate to our children, extended families and community the sacred Jewish acts of tzedakah (justice) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). We do no less than secure our future as a people in the face of a rapidly changing society. As the days of awe approach, take time to reflect on how you can make a difference now as part of this profound and rewarding community collaboration.
Through the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation’s new Life & Legacy Initiative, in partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, OJCF is mentoring leaders throughout the community to provide them with education, marketing materials, structure and guidance to enable them to successfully secure legacy gifts for their organizations. This collaborative effort by the legacy teams of the 10 participating organizations also includes incentive grants to reward the teams for reaching their legacy gift goals. The OJCF Legacy Leadership Council, chaired by Eric Rosenfeld, immediate past president, selected these organizations last summer, and the multiyear program was launched in October 2013. Workshops for the legacy teams are facilitated by the Grinspoon Foundation’s Arlene Schiff, who is national director of Life & Legacy, and other national experts such as Bryan Clontz, president of Charitable Solutions, LLC, and Marjory Kaplan, president and CEO of Jewish Community Foundation, San Diego.
Better yet, it’s not just the 10 organizations that are benefiting. As donors consider their passions and ultimate plans with the legacy team members, they also include other area Jewish organizations as beneficiaries. As Ben Isenberg z”l, OJCF’s first Legacy Leadership Council chair, once said, “Life & Legacy provides an unprecedented avenue for community collaboration.”
“Life & Legacy is changing the philanthropic conversations in our community, bringing bequests and other kinds of estate gifts into more and more giving discussions. Thanks to the match funding from the Grinspoon Foundation of more than $200,000 for the incentive grants, plus funding from the OJCF Community Endowment Fund, nearly all foundation board members and other generous individual donors, the program is delivering new and exciting resources to our community,” says Sharon Morell, OJCF president. “Securing permanent endowment gifts, most often from donors’ estates, is key to a secure financial future for our Jewish community.”
During the past eight months, the legacy teams have secured more than 75 legacy commitments in the first quarter alone. These legacy gifts will potentially translate into an estimated $3.75 million for our organizations in the future. Our community goal for the first year is a total of 132 legacy gifts, or approximately $6.6 million in funds (based on a national average bequest amount of $50,000).
According to Elizabeth Menashe, OJCF board member and Life & Legacy team member for Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, “The Life & Legacy program has been really educational and is a benefit for the entire community. The Grinspoon Foundation is truly ahead of its time.” The Grinspoon Foundation has earmarked $20 million for support of Life & Legacy in communities across North America.
The first year of the Life & Legacy program will conclude in November 2014, and OJCF is confident that all the organizations will meet their goals and receive the first incentive grants. The foundation plans to host a community-wide gathering to celebrate our collective success. Additional workshops and the introduction of a community-wide Endowment Book of Life are sure to be high points in the second year of this multiyear program.
“When I see the teams from diverse organizations working well together, it’s very inspiring and reduces the sense of competition we sometimes experience,” says OJCF Executive Director Julie Diamond. “Life & Legacy provides a profound way to convey our values, sustain traditions, preserve family histories and respond to the serious financial needs of our shared community.”
Julie Diamond is the executive director of Oregon Jewish Community Foundation, and Gail Mandel is OJCF’s legacy development manager.
Life & Legacy Participating Organizations
Cedar Sinai Park, Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Neveh Shalom, Congregation Shaarie Torah, Jewish Family & Child Service, Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, Mittleman Jewish Community Center, Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, Portland Jewish Academy and Temple Beth Israel, Eugene