Three Federations Divest Holdings in South Africa-based U.S. Firms Uncommitted to Anti-apartheid Mov
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Three Federations Divest Holdings in South Africa-based U.S. Firms Uncommitted to Anti-apartheid Mov

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Three Jewish Federation — Boston, New York and Rhode Island — have decided to divest themselves of holdings in American companies operating in South Africa which are not committed in principle and practice to the equality of non-white workers with their white employes.

Equal treatment for non-white employes in South Africa is the basis of the Sullivan Principles, a voluntary code of conduct formulated in 1977 by Philadelphia Minister Leon Sullivan. The Principles call for equal pay for non-whites, desegregation of the workplace and the improvement of the quality of life for non-whites outside it. American companies which are signatories to the Principles are evaluated annually for compliance with them, and for progress toward their goals, by the Arthur D. Little Company.

The Jewish Advocate of Boston, in a front-page story by Lawrence Harmon, reported that the Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) of Greater Boston — together with Beth Israel Hospital and Temple Israel — voted November 26 to divest themselves within a year of securities in American companies which are non-signatories of the Sullivan Principles or which received low scores from the independent evaluation by the Little Company. The decision also directed the three institutions to make future investments in accordance with these guidelines.

The combined total of the investment portfolio of the three Boston institutions is $75 million, of which approximately $3 million — about four percent for each — is invested in six companies which received inadequate ratings for compliance with the Sullivan Principles. The institutions declined to make known the names of the companies. Although each institution maintains independent investment portfolios, a joint board of managers oversees investment practices for all three, according to the Advocate article.

The CJP share of the total amount invested is $37 million, of which about $1,480,000 is affected by the divestiture decision, Harmon reported. The size of Beth Israel’s portfolio is “roughly in line” with that of the CJP, according to information received by the weekly newspaper, although the hospital officially acknowledged only a portfolio of $17million. Temple Israel’s investments total $2 million.

The “key driving force for divestment” in the Greater Boston area, according to Harmon, is Justin Wyner, chairman of the Board of Managers of Temple Israel. “Many Jewish leaders have talked about how terrible things are in South Africa but never looked at their own investments,” Wyner told the Advocate. He hoped, he said, that “all Jewish institutions will follow” the example of the three Boston institutions adding that “it’s time for South Africa to listen.”


The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (FJP) of New York announced on Monday the decision by its Board of Trustees to have the FJP divest itself of holdings in American companies which do not subscribe to the Sullivan Principles and to refrain from future investments in such companies.

The New York Federation has investments totalling $11 million in approximately 30 American companies operating in South Africa out of a total portfolio of approximately $60 million, William Kahn, its executive vice president, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Kahn declined to make available the names of the companies involved other than to say that some were “blue-chip” corporations.

He said that the securities to be divested are currently valued at $1 million. The divestiture procedure will be carried out within a month’s time. In addition, Kahn said that the FJP has $5 million in companies which subscribe to the Sullivan Principles but which haven’t made “significant movement” toward implementing its guidelines.

These companies will be carefully monitored by the Federation over the next year and decisions on divestment will be made on a company-by-company basis. An additional $5 million is invested in companies which are signatories to the Principles and are “working actively to improve the quality of life for all people” in South Africa, Kahn said.

The divestment decision, announced by Federation president Daniel Shapiro, was reached by the Federation Committee on Government Relations and the Finance Committee, said Kahn. Both committees shared a “concern in terms of Federation representing certain Jewish values” which made it “inappropriate for Federation to hold securities — be part of the ownership — of companies in South Africa which are not working toward the democratic ideal of people having the right to live a full and complete life,” Kahn said.

The Jewish Federation of Rhode Island adopted a resolution June 6 endorsing the concept of divestment from holdings in companies which do not “adhere to anti-apartheid standards such as the Sullivan Principles.” The Federation has since that time divested itself of “a few stocks,” said executive vice president Elliot Cohan.

These holdings are in companies which either did not respond to the Federation’s inquiries as to whether they were signatories to the Sullivan Principles, or who informed the Federation they did not sign the Principles and which the Federation felt did not give “ample reason” for this, or which showed “no evidence of participating in any constructive efforts for Black workers.”

The Rhode Island Jewish Federation declined to reveal the amount of money invested in South African companies, the names of the companies, or the value of the divested stock or of its total investment portfolio.

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