2017-10-25 / Voice at the Shore

Local Jewish community selected to be part of LIFE & LEGACY program

Voice shore editor

Jeff Kripitz, Federation’s LIFE & LEGACY chair, said the program is a “positive win-win for everyone.” Jeff Kripitz, Federation’s LIFE & LEGACY chair, said the program is a “positive win-win for everyone.” What will our Jewish community look like in 50 years—or 100 years?

Will the Jewish organizations that shaped our values, brought meaning to our lives, and helped our families in times of need still be around for future generations of Jewish families?

Will Judaism still be a vital part of people’s lives— and is there anything we can do now to make sure that it is?

These questions are at the heart of LIFE & LEGACY, a program which seeks to insure the future of the Jewish community— one community at a time—by encouraging people to leave after-lifetime (or “legacy”) gifts to the Jewish organizations that they most value.

Created by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF), LIFE & LEGACY offers money and training to a select group of communities, with the goal of creating a “culture” in which Jewish people make a habit of remembering Jewish organizations that mean the most to them in their wills, trusts, retirement plans or life insurance policies.

This fall, our local Jewish community became one of nine new communities nationwide accepted into the program, thanks to the efforts of the Jewish Federation of Atlantic & Cape May Counties and its Community Foundation.

Funding for the 4-year program will be provided by the Federation (66%) and matched by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (33%). Organizations will receive training on how to build legacy programs as well as coaching on how to speak with donors about ensuring an organization’s future by making after-lifetime gifts. Cash incentive grants will be provided for participating organizations that meet their goals.

“All local Jewish organizations are encouraged to take part in this tremendous opportunity,” said Kirk Wisemayer, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, which will oversee the local LIFE & LEGACY Program.

To be truly successful, he added, the entire community needs to understand and embrace LIFE & LEGACY—not just the leaders, board members and longtime donors of local Jewish organizations, but also every person that each organization touches. “Everyone who cares about our Jewish community should be involved and have a voice in this,” he said.

So far, the 43 Jewish communities nationwide participating in LIFE & LEGACY since 2012 have raised an estimated $613- million to assure the future of Jewish organizations in their communities. These communities include large cities like Chicago and Miami as well as mid-sized communities like the Cherry Hill area and smaller communities, like Princeton.

Regardless of size, all have seen positive results, stressed Dena Kaufman, a LIFE & LEGACY Community Consultant who will be working with our community. For instance, the program overseen by the Federation of Southern New Jersey in Cherry Hill has raised an estimated $21 million from 662 legacy gifts since 2014, and Princeton’s Jewish community raised an estimated $29.7 million from 512 legacy gifts over a four-year period, she noted.

According to Harold Grinspoon, founder of HGF, providing Jewish communities with proven tools and training to create legacy programs is vital to the survival of Jewish communal organizations.

“Through the LIFE & LEGACY program, I’m hopeful that we will be able to help sustain vibrant communities that allow future generations to enjoy our rich Jewish culture and heritage,” Grinspoon stated in a press release about the program. The 88-year-old philanthropist, whose foundation is investing $30-million dollars over a ten-year period to fund the LIFE & LEGACY program.

Legacy gifts are especially important now that many Jewish communities nationally—including ours—are both shrinking and seeing fewer donations to annual fundraising campaigns, said Wisemayer. “As campaigns around the country shrink, we will be forced to look to endowments to make up for the shortfall needed to fund critical services,” he noted.

The financial results aren’t the only benefit of the program, he added. ”From a community-building perspective, this program gives our local Jewish organizations an opportunity to come together, get behind this program and work together for the future welfare of the entire community. In terms of building assets and building community, it’s a great thing.”

Jeff Kripitz, who is serving as Federation’s LIFE & LEGACY chairperson, agrees. Kripitz, who has been active in the Jewish community here throughout his life, owns an insurance company in Northfield and is a founding board member of the Parke Bank. He said he decided to chair the program because it’s “a positive win-win for everyone,” and because the program uses a successful model that is “creative and unifying.”

Rabbi David Weis of Congregation Beth Israel in Northfield agreed. “This program is about more than just raising money for your organization,” said Weis, who initially heard about LIFE & LEGACY from colleagues around the country. He also attended a LIFE & LEGACY conference last spring with Wisemayer and other local leaders to find out more about the program.

“All of us raise our families with an eye to what we are leaving behind us—not just money, but the values that we pass on,” said Weis, noting that through LIFE & LEGACY, congregants and other community members have the opportunity to leave behind a legacy to the community; they have the opportunity to make a difference in the future of one or more organizations that have made a difference in their lives.

“This program will give people an opportunity to talk about the Jewish community and what it means to them. It will give them a way to build their own legacy stories,” he said.

Weis hopes to involve his entire congregation. “People who can’t give money for a campaign can give a legacy gift,” he explained, because they don’t have to give a cash gift. Instead, they can commit to leaving a percentage of their estate or retirement fund. For instance, they can leave 95% of their estate to their children and the rest as a legacy gift. “Their kids aren’t likely to miss 5%,” he noted.

According to the Grinspoon Foundation’s Kaufman, it is critical for Jewish organizations to actively pursue legacy gifts now, just as universities and hospitals have done for years.

“A $59-trillion transfer of wealth is taking place in this country, as Baby Boomers begin to pass away and leave their wealth to future generations,” explained Kaufman.

A kickoff event for LIFE & LEGACY will be held on Thursday, November 16, 5:30- 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Israel in Northfield. The event will feature a talk by Kaufman on “Why Legacy? Why Now?” which will explain why Jewish organizations need to actively pursue legacy gifts now, just as universities and hospitals have done for years.

All leaders and board members of local Jewish organizations—as well as anyone else who is passionate about these organizations or wants to learn more about LIFE & LEGACY—are encouraged to attend the kickoff event. Program requirements for participating local organizations will also be explained at the kickoff event, which includes a light dinner. To RSVP, please call Becky at the Jewish Federation at (609) 822-4404. 

In addition to her role as editor at Voice at the Shore, Ellen Weisman Strenger is program coordinator for LIFE & LEGACY for the Jewish Federation of Atlantic & Cape May Counties.

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