Building A Better Future


The Jewish Communal Fund, which has consistently been the largest single contributor to UJA-Federation, broadened the scope of its support last year with gifts to UJA-Federation’s fund that supports building projects.

Noting that JCF donations in the past have been used for UJA-Federation’s general operating budget, JCF’s endowment committee decided also to "help the network of services to the Jewish and general community by targeting specific projects," according to Lynn Kroll, JCF’s endowment committee chair.

She observed that the projects the JCF voted to support were chosen to assist Jews of every age, from infants to the elderly.

"We were mindful of making our reach as broad as possible," said Kroll.

Abby Tucker, JCF’s director of marketing and communications, said the organization will contribute $500,000 annually for the next three years to capital projects. She said four projects have been funded to date for a total of $1.15 million, and that the endowment committee is waiting for UJA-Federation to provide an additional list of capital projects from which to chose.

The projects already selected are:

# The JCC on the Upper West Side, a $500,000 grant over three years to help with its $60 million building campaign.

# The Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, $450,000 over three years to help fund critical renovations to its building.

# Hillel House at Brooklyn College, $100,000 to renovate the school’s kosher kitchen and dining facilities. There are 3,000 Jewish students on campus.

# Dorot, the nation’s largest volunteer organization serving the aged, $100,000 to refurbish the lower level of its Manhattan headquarters. It serves 10,000 clients a year. The grant will enable Dorot to move its University Without Walls program to its Information and Program Services Center.

Since it was founded by UJA-Federation in 1972 as an independent public charity, the Jewish Communal Fund has donated all but 10 percent of its operating surplus to UJA-Federation. The 10 percent was invested in an endowment fund, which has grown significantly since being invested in equities in 1995. It has been used rarely and only for emergencies, such as Operation Exodus, the effort to resettle Jews from the former Soviet Union.

"We don’t want the endowment to build up forever and ever," said Kroll, who is also chair of UJA-Federation’s Planning Giving and Endowments Committee. "It is to be used for the good of the community. If the investments continue to do well, we should be able to continue making these kind of grants."

The JCF has about 1,600 philanthropic funds with more than $550 million in assets. Accounts are opened with individual contributions of at least $10,000 in cash or appreciated securities. There is an immediate tax deduction for the gift, which continues to appreciate in the fund. Donors then advise the JCF which public charities (sectarian or nonsectarian) the money should support. Participants have contributed nearly $1 billion to thousands of causes worldwide.

Fund participants last year contributed $117 million to various charities. About 60 percent of the grants were made to Jewish organizations, $9.8 million to UJA-Federation itself and another $4 million to $5 million to its beneficiary agencies. The JCF contributed $3 million to UJA-Federation’s general campaign with money from its operating surplus.

Kroll said the advantage of the fund is that individuals may not have the ability to make a $500,000 grant to the JCC of the Upper West Side, but that the JCF could because its donors pooled their money.

Debby Hirshman, executive director of the JCC on the Upper West Side, said the grant has boosted the amount of money raised to $36.5 million. Construction on the 11-story building (three floors below ground and eight above) began last summer and it is scheduled to open in the fall of 2001.

The 137,000-square-foot building will encompass a half-block at 76th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. The JCC, which opened nine years ago, is now run from offices at the Jewish Guild for the Blind at 65th Street near Central Park West.

Hirshman said 7,000 people attend the JCC’s programs annually and that the new building is designed to accommodate 10,000 members.

The lower floors will have an auditorium, teen and senior centers, a cooking school, a photography center, arts and crafts studios, and a multimedia computer center and classrooms. There will also be a nursery school, a swimming pool, a gym and a fitness center. On the main floor, the JCC will have an exhibition area, a Judaica shop and a kosher cafe.

On the seventh floor, the JCC will have a bet midrash, or place of study, the only one in any JCC in the country, Hirshman noted. "The JCC will be a port of entry for all Jews to explore their Jewish identity," she said.