Menu JTA Search

Jfc Board Votes to Divest Itself of Holdings in Companies Presently Doing Business in South Africa

The Jewish Federation Council Board of Directors has instructed the Jewish Community Foundation, its $60 million endowment arm, to divest itself of all investment holdings in companies presently doing business in South Africa.

This action, taken at the Board’s July meeting, makes it one of less than a handful of American Jewish Federations to join the growing economic boycott of the apartheid-wracked nation. The Foundation is the largest clearinghouse of Jewish philanthropic endowment opportunities in Southern California and the third largest Jewish community foundation in the nation.

Howard Miller, newly appointed chairperson of the JFC Community Relations Committee, stated that the Federation Board’s decision mirrors the Jewish community’s abhorrence of racism and discrimination in all its forms.

“We stand squarely with the many other corporate, government and community entities that have withdrawn support from the apartheid system,” Miller said. “The CRC will continue to monitor the South Africa situation with reference to the effects of divestiture, the needs of South Africa’s Jewish community and our Los Angeles community relations agenda.”

In its debate, the Board considered the financial security of the community, relations with the Los Angeles Black community and the implications regarding the nature of business operations of other companies in its portfolio of investments.

Foundation President Allan Cutrow reported that, based on information provided him by four of the five independent firms managing the Foundation’s $12.5 million portfolio of income-generating funds, that investments in the following firms are included: DeBeers, Minarco, I.B.M., Nalco Chemical Co., V.F. Corporation, Bandag, Inc., American Cyanamid Co., Borden, Inc., Citicorp, Dupont, Dart and Craft, General Motors, General Signal, Kimberly Clark and Sterling Drugs, Inc.

WILL NOT DAMAGE COMMUNITY RESERVES

Cutrow assured the Board that their commitment to this active stance would not damage the community’s reserves. Not only is there a small representation of companies doing business in South Africa, he noted, but the average parcel of securities involved in any of the five accounts amounts to under four percent of the total value.

In addition, the equity portfolio is highly flexible, and divestment would not cost a significant amount to effect. An exact tally of the funds involved was not available pending the report of the fifth manager.

That all but DeBeers, Minoroco, V.F. Corporation and Bandag, Inc., have signed the Sullivan Principles, an affirmative action statement fostering desegregation and equal pay in the workplace, became a significant distinction as several attempts were made to exempt those co-signers’ securities from divestiture. The amendment was defeated each time.

JFC president Stanley Hirsh recognized several attempts to include in a divestiture policy those countries boycotting Israel, and nations such as the Soviet Union, which deny human rights to their Jewish citizens. Such efforts were defeated in the interest of maintaining the focus of the action. The Board also declined to study the investment portfolio of the Federation’s pension fund.

NEXT STORY