Economic Crisis & Scandals Bring Clarity of Mission
Columbus Jewish Foundation Mission & Values Continue to Guide Grantmaking Activities in Troubled Economic Climate
Columbus, Ohio / December 2008 :: In the midst of the nation’s worst economic downturn since the depression and the recent hedge fund scandals that have rocked the Jewish community, non profit organizations are feeling the crunch as investment returns are yielding minimal if not negative returns while donors are holding back on gifts and new fund development is at a standstill. Organizations are scrambling to make the most of their charitable dollars—and in the process—are taking the opportunity to revisit the importance of their missions and values.
The Columbus Jewish Foundation has always viewed its allocations process through the lens of its mission and core values. In this current economic climate, the importance of stewardship and responsibility are at an all time high as the Foundation looks to maximize its community impact. “To help people give and to help agencies succeed is at the core our mission statement,” noted Foundation President Michael Weiss.
With the economic climate as the backdrop, the Columbus Jewish Foundation Board of Trustees met last week to review and vote on the Fall 2008 docket or requests. Babette Feibel, Vice Chairman of the Community Grants Committee delivered the report and requests for action, reminding the Board that the Foundation is “a donor-centered charitable enterprise dedicated to supporting the stability and continuity of Jewish life in Columbus and elsewhere.” “As agencies struggle…”, Feibel continued, “… the committee’s focus remained steadfast in its mission and focus—to fund those programs that will provide our community’s most important agencies with means to provide its constituencies with the vital programmatic support it relies on to thrive.”
This support, however, does not come in the form of subsidizing operating budgets. That is simply not what the Foundation is in the business of doing. With this as the backdrop, Feibel was pleased to offer the Community Grants Committee Fall 2008 Grants Docket included the following requests and recommendations:
The Columbus Jewish Day School—Building our Future Capital Campaign $75,000
For close to a decade, the Columbus Jewish Day School (CJDS) has been leasing space in an old building owned by the New Albany Plain Local School District. This lease is finally set to expire at the end of 2008-2009 school year. After and exhaustive real estate search, a careful review of options and a strong enrollment projection for the coming year and beyond, the decision was made to build a new building to house both CJDS and the JCC of Greater Columbus. Groundbreaking occurred in late fall for both organizations and CJDS is well on its way to completing its $2 million Capital Campaign goal. Community grants recommended a $75,000 grant to the CJDS Building our Future Capital Campaign. The CJDS building will house grades K-6 but expects to also maintain its current facilities relationship with Tifereth Israel and the Melton Adult Mini School.
Jewish Family Services—Friendly Visitor Program $20,000
The Friendly Visitor Program will expand the current support system for Jewish seniors with diminished mobility to lessen their isolation, thereby increasing their quality of life. These seniors experience the world as smaller, creating a more dependent living situation, which can lead to withdrawal, depressions, nutritional deficiencies and other conditions. JFS’s Friendly Visitor Program creates a connection for these seniors with their Jewish community. Volunteers will visit with homebound seniors and will report concerns he/she uncovers during their visit. Necessary contacts and actions will be taken to meet the needs of the senior. A network of 15 “friendly visitors” will be recruited in the first year of this program and will call on seniors two to four times a month.
Jewish Family Services—Short Term Therapy $25,800
Jewish Family Services requires a mental health fund to assist Jewish community members who need and would benefit from short term therapy. Diagnostic assessment and up to nine counseling sessions will be made available to those who apply. This program had been supported by the United Way of Central Ohio which recently changed their focus and has stopped funding mental health services in the community.
Wexner Heritage Village’s strategic plan calls for a the creation of a home-based system of care that will grow the organization beyond “the four walls” of its current campus to offer care in a the way that it is expected by the community for those in need.
In addition to the four Community Grant recommendations, Jewish Education & Literacy, Jewish Arts and Social Justice grant requests were also presented for approval.
JEWISH EDUCATION & LITERACY Columbus Torah Academy—ISACS Accreditation / $12,000 in year one, $13,000 in year two pending evaluation
Columbus Torah Academy is in the process of renewing its accreditation with the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS). A seven year cyclical process, CTA is currently embarking on the second year. The accreditation process includes conducting a thorough self study and a formal evaluation by a visiting team of educational consultants. ISACS accreditation places CTA in a league with the Columbus Academy, Columbus Jewish Day School, Columbus School for Girls, Marburn Academy and the Wellington School. Identifying a school’s strengths and weaknesses and identifying a timeline for improvements is a major function of the accreditation process.
JEWISH ARTS CITY MUSIC—Les Yeux Noirs $2,500
The January 22, 2009 performance and community workshop by the Paris, France based Yiddish/Romani band Les Yeux Noirs (The Black Eyes) will present traditional Jewish musical forms in a fresh, vibrant and compelling way which appeals to adults both young and old.
“While the events of the last week, including the recent allegations against Bernard Madoff and his Ponzi scheme have taken its toll on Jewish community organizations and philanthropists around the country and beyond, the day to day operations of the Columbus Jewish Foundation have not been affected in any way.” noted Foundation President Michael Weiss. “From a Foundation perspective” he continued, “Madoff was not a manager or advisor of any Columbus Jewish Foundation funds. The bulk of the Columbus Jewish Foundation portfolio is managed by SEI Investments, a leading provider of manager of manager investment services.
SEI has $178 billion dollars under management, including over $44 million of Columbus Jewish Foundation portfolio. “There is no exposure, no fall-out, regarding the Foundation’s SEI-managed assets and the Columbus Jewish Foundation’s relationship with our firm in connection with the Madoff situation,” noted Keven Chriske, a representative of SEI. The company provides asset management services for not-for-profit organizations and other institutional investors.
“We feel this issue may ultimately result in greater and deeper oversight for hedge funds,” said Criske. “ We would welcome this, as it would be consistent with our risk-controlled and fiduciary-focused approach to investing.”
For over 53 years, the Columbus Jewish Foundation has seen its role as attending to the unmet needs of our community. For more information about the Columbus Jewish Foundation and to find out how your philanthropic dollars can make a difference right here in Columbus and throughout the world, please visit www.iamphil.org, or call 614-338-2365.