Top Leaders Commit $11 Million to Philadelphia Jewish Federation

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The pledges, made by two top lay leaders of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, aim to set an example for others to "step up and do more" as the campaign year draws to a close.

Two top lay leaders of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia have committed a total of roughly $11 million to the endowment fund of the Federation.

The pledges, which reflect a strong year for endowments, come as those involved with the annual campaign of the community’s central fundraising organization are working hard to secure end-of-year gifts to boost the general campaign.

The endowment commitments include $10 million from Bernard “Bud” Newman, the president of Federation, and his family, as well as $1 million from his immediate predecessor, Sherrie Savett.

According to Newman, it was a “very brief discussion” when he and his wife, Judith, approached his sister Lynne Ferman and their combined six children and their spouses to propose committing $10 million to the endowment fund through their life insurance policies.

“We’ve created this because we’re all of the same mind,” said Newman, who credits his grandfather for setting his family’s path toward Jewish life and giving.

His grandfather, David Newman, an immigrant who founded the paperboard manufacturing company, Newman & Co., that is still going strong 96 years later, became active in the local Jewish community as a young man.

David Newman’s four children, three grandchildren — including Bud Newman, who now serves as company president — and five great-grandchildren not only followed him into the family business, but also followed his Jewish and philanthropic direction as well.

“Being raised in a family like that, it was taught to me and inculcated in me in a very easy, simplified way. I bought into it and so have other members of my family,” Newman said.

Newman said he had long hoped to be in a position to make such a substantial gift, which will come over a period of years as the life insurance policy is realized for each participant. They include: Newman and his wife; their children, Lisa and David Newman, Jessica and David Solomon and Rachel and Eric Schwartz; Lynne Ferman and her children, Risa and Michael Ferman, Susan and Michael Paul, and Michelle and Adam Simmens.

For her part, Savett has named the Federation as the beneficiary of her 401(k), which is expected to be in excess of $1 million when she dies.

Savett said she, too, grew up in a warm and loving Jewish family, but her passion for Jewish life and giving got a later start, when she was invited to join a Federation mission to Israel at the age of 29.

“The experience empowered me as a Jew and sparked a lifelong love affair with this Federation and the State of Israel,” she said at Federation’s Main Event in November, where she was honored for her service as president.

She was inspired to make her endowment commitment now because “I want to ensure the future of the Jewish people after I’m gone,” she said. “I trust the Federation to make very sound decisions about Jewish life and the future of the Jewish community and to use the money wisely to perpetuate a vibrant Jewish community.”

The idea made even greater sense, she said, when she learned that by giving her retirement plan to a charitable institution rather than to her children, there would be no taxes paid on it.

The two endowment gifts are being touted as a significant development in this year’s fundraising efforts.

“We’ve never had our outgoing president and current president make seven-figure gifts to the endowment,” said Rachel Gross, director of planned giving and endowments. “That’s a big deal.”

Naomi Adler, CEO of the Federation, said the endowment commitments by Newman and Savett are an “amazing” example of what needs to happen more in this community: Big donors standing up and showing pride in giving to Federation. This is not about them, she said, it’s about “showing other people what they can do.”

The endowment commitments come as the Federation is wrapping up its annual campaign, which includes contributions for donor-designated programs as well as unrestricted donations to the general Jewish Community Fund. The general fund is the primary source of monies to the general allocable pool, which in turn provides the primary dollars for the dozens of Jewish identity-building, educational, social service and Israel-related programs and institutions — both local and global — that the Federation supports each year.

The campaign’s endowment dollars registered one of its highest totals in recent years — $13.2 million in commitments for fiscal year 2013-14, with another $9.6 million in actual dollars that were received, according to Gross.

As of early December, the general campaign had raised $17 million, down some 8 percent from the same time the previous year. Last year, the annual campaign raised a total of $25.5 million, and in 2012, it reached $24.8 million.

Contributions to the general campaign go straight into funding projects while endowment gifts go into a long-term fund, currently valued at $265 million, of which nearly 5 percent of interest can be used for spending each year. In 2013-14, more than $6 million from endowments was available to fund projects on top of the dollars raised by the annual campaign.

The shortfall, which officials say they are hoping to make up in the remaining weeks of the year — when donors often designate their gifts to nonprofits — could have grave consequences for the many programs and services that Federation funds.

Without enough dollars, said Gail Norry, chair of the Federation’s campaign, the Policy, Strategy and Funding Committee that determines the ultimate allocations will once again have to make difficult choices about what and how much to fund.

Such “painstaking” decisions, she said, affect everything from how many children get scholarships to go to Jewish summer camp to the level of funding for social services for seniors and the poor.

Members of the Jewish community need to understand, Newman added, that “the needs are immediate, the needs are today, the needs are strong — and they require as many people as possible to be involved and to give.”

He hopes that his family’s endowment gift serves as an example for others “to step up and do more.”

Both Norry and Newman, meanwhile, are optimistic about the future.

“I believe we can grow our annual giving and our endowment significantly if we pull together,” Newman said.

 “With a new CEO in place,” he said, referring to Adler, “we have somebody who came in with a clean slate, and to a great degree, that’s highly beneficial.”

By all accounts, he said, Adler has done an “outstanding job” in her first seven months here. Among other things, “she’s re-engaging people who went away and further engaging people who are and have been involved,” he said.

Norry agreed. “We are seeing that people are vey excited” about the new direction and new leadership of Federation. She and others cited the buzz around the Federation’s Main Event, which drew more than 800 people and for the first time didn’t require a minimum donation to the organization beyond the cost of the ticket.

In place for next year, she said, is a detailed plan to bring back lapsed donors, cultivate new donors and new leadership, build mid-level gifts at the $10,000 level and host meaningful events that bring new people in.

“We need to galvanize the community to reach our potential, so we can do more wonderful things,” she said. “I can see us making huge strides in the next year or two. I think we will really see a difference.”

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