Program to Secure Local Jewish Institutions Takes on New Meaning after Oct. 7

Temple Sinai in Dresher (Photo by Edy Israel)

Harold Grinspoon, the Jewish real estate developer, has a foundation that supports Jewish causes. It’s perhaps best known for launching PJ Library.

But it’s also known for its Life & Legacy program that promotes “after-lifetime giving to build endowments that will provide financial stability to day schools, synagogues and other Jewish entities,” according to, the foundation’s website.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia announced a local adoption of the Life & Legacy program in June. In a blog post announcing the decision, the Jewish Federation touted that the Grinspoon Foundation program had helped “72 other communities around North America.” It also relayed that Life & Legacy had “secured more than 36,000 legacy commitments for organizations with an estimated future value of more than $1.4 billion.”

Thirteen Philadelphia-area organizations are part of the initial launch: the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, KleinLife, Beth Chaim Reform Congregation, Kosloff Torah Academy, the Chabad of Bucks County, Maccabi USA, JEVS Human Services, Main Line Reform Temple-Beth Elohim, Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel, Shir Ami, Temple Sinai, Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El and the Jewish Federation itself.

The Jewish Federation is “training specific institutions to establish and sustain endowment campaigns,” said Karen Kramer, the Life & Legacy chair.

“The idea of a legacy gift or establishing an endowment emphasizes the importance for Jewish institutions to have been here yesterday, to be here today and to ensure that we’re making a promise for the future,” Kramer said.

Since Oct. 7, the program has taken on a new meaning.

“What it enabled us to do was bring that into the conversation. It was the importance of having the conversation now,” Kramer said. “We want to ensure a Jewish future.”

The Jewish future is not just in Israel. It’s in Philadelphia, too, according to Kramer.

“Jews everywhere need a community. We are working to do this in Philadelphia,” she said.

Richard “Dick” Berman is vice chair of the board at KleinLife. The Northeast Philadelphia community center has not yet kicked off the Life & Legacy program to the public, according to Berman.

But when it does launch, Berman expects it to have support. After Oct. 7, KleinLife had “one of our best fourth quarters ever in terms of voluntary contributions,” Berman said.

“We finished the year at $1 million in annual contributions,” he added. “A good deal of that was raised during the fourth quarter.”

KleinLife provides active adult programs, after-school programs, meals for the elderly and other services. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine two years ago, it also helps Ukrainian refugees who ended up in Philadelphia.

“That makes us attractive to donors as well,” Berman said.

“And just the general awareness that Oct. 7 has raised,” he added. “When people want to respond to that, part of that is giving to Jewish organizations whether they are Israel-based or not.”

KleinLife in Northeast Philadelphia (Courtesy of KleinLife)

Barbara Rosenau is the parliamentarian on the board of directors at Temple Sinai in Dresher. Like KleinLife, Temple Sinai is still planning its Life & Legacy program. But early feedback is positive, Rosenau said.

“We have a committee. When we have those one-on-one conversations, everyone is amenable,” she said. “Temple Sinai never had a legacy program before. This is an opportunity to secure the future.”

The process goes like this: “We have a conversation. And then we ask people to submit a letter of intent that tells us that yes, this is something that they will do. Then we ask people within 12 months to finalize a gift confirmation form,” Rosenau said.

The afterlife gift can be a bequest in a will, a life insurance policy or a retirement plan, among others, according to Rosenau. Donors just need to designate Temple Sinai as the beneficiary.

The committee’s goal is to sign up 18 people this year, Rosenau said.

“I think we will exceed it,” she said. “And we will have a legacy Shabbat in recognition of our donors who become members of our legacy society.”

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