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JTA: Sinking economy casts shadow over philanthropists’ parley

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My wrap-up from the JFN conference is up at JTA.org:

ST PETERSBURG, Fla. (JTA) — It was a telling moment at the annual conference of the Jewish Funders Network, a gathering of philanthropists who give away at least $25,000 per year to Jewish causes and, in most cases much, much more.

Harold Grinspoon and his wife, Diane Troderman, who have donated tens of millions of dollars to Jewish and non-Jewish causes over the past two decades, had just received JFN’s Sidney Shapiro Tzedakah Award. For Grinspoon and Troderman, it amounted to a lifetime achievement award, recognizing the huge sums of money allocated by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation to dozens of programs and organizations.

But with her husband flanking her at the Vinoy Hotel here as they accepted the award, Troderman announced that they would be scaling back. Going forward, she said, the couple would concentrate most of their philanthropic efforts on their signature program, the PJ Library, a Jewish literacy program that helps distribute Jewish books to young children and their families.

Most of the rest of their money, Troderman said, would not be given away until after their deaths.

“We are really thinking about legacy,” she said, invoking the term used in the philanthropy world to describe bequests.

Officials at the foundation declined to discuss details but, according to several sources, Grinspoon has been hit hard by the recession.

For many of those in attendance, it was a sobering image: The Grinspoons, longtime pillars of the Jewish philanthropic world — right up there with the Bronfmans, Schustermans and Steinhardts — standing before the creme de la creme of Jewish givers, being honored for what they had done in the past, tacitly acknowledging that the present was not that bright and making clear that in the future they would have to be more strategic.

To boot, the event’s keynote speaker, noted Holocaust writer and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, had most of his personal and charitable wealth stolen by Bernard Madoff in his Ponzi scheme.

They are not alone. Foundations have lost on average 30 percent of their money during the recession and, according to the JFN’s president, Mark Charendoff, family foundations could end up cutting their grants by up to 60 percent.

It showed at the JFN conference, where wallets were lighter and attendance was down to 220 from last year’s 350.

To read the rest, click here.

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