Synagogues and Organizations Can Ensure their own Legacies
The following is a reprint of the JCF's Money Matters column, published in the October 4, 2023 issue of the Jewish Community Voice:
Just as individuals can leave a legacy to benefit others, so, too, can an organization. As Jewish communities evolve, synagogues and other social service organizations may be created or dissolved as needs change.
Temple Beth El of Hammonton (pictured) represents a notable and noble example of this organizational life cycle. Founded in 1934 in an apartment in downtown Hammonton, congregants worked together to build a standalone synagogue in 1937 that could hold up to 75 people in its sanctuary.
B’nai mitzvah, weddings, Shabbat and holiday services, and more took place in the building, but due to an ongoing outflow of members who left the Hammonton area, Temple Beth El became inviable and ultimately closed and the building was sold.
To ensure that the proceeds from the building’s sale created a lasting legacy, a small group of Beth El’s leaders, including then-President Stephen Schwartz, Rabbi Abby Michaleski, and Claudia Tung, consulted with the Jewish Community Legacy Project to determine how to benefit others now and for future generations.
This group opted to first issue one-time grants from half of the proceeds to benefit seven different Jewish and secular nonprofits that they felt perform vital work.
For the balance of the proceeds, they connected with the Jewish Community Foundation, Inc. to establish the Temple Beth El of Hammonton Legacy Endowment Fund. This fund will spin off annual income to benefit three causes that were important to the congregation: The Jewish Federation of Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester Counties (which serves the Hammonton region); Ezra Uganda Assistance, which Temple Beth El had previously provided with a Sefer Torah for use at the Abayudaya Synagogue in Uganda; and Hammonton High School for an annual scholarship for seniors, recognizing the history of the Hammonton community being so supportive of Beth El since its formation.
The JCF is pleased to carry on Beth El’s nearly 90-year legacy of existence by sustaining these esteemed causes.
Over the years, other organizations have also utilized the JCF to create endowment funds that perpetuate legacies and continue to provide for the greater good. Following the closure of Congregation Beth Jacob-Beth Israel (BJBI) in the early 1990s, for example, congregational representatives decided to establish two endowment funds with the JCF, one titled as the BJBI Excellence in Jewish Education Endowment Fund and the other as the BJBI Israel Fund for Jewish Youth.
Jewish Federation President Ed Rivkin, who has long assisted with managing the disbursements of the annual payouts, said, “The BJBI endowment funds have benefited the Southern NJ community in many ways. Our Jewish educators have received educational conference stipends each year, thereby enhancing their professional teaching skills. The BJBI endowment funds have also assisted countless Southern NJ Jewish teens in attending Jewish overnight summer camp and organized Israel summer experiences.”
Further, the Benjamin Asbell Upsilon Lambda Phi Memorial Endowment Fund offers an annual financial award to help high school recipients participate in youth group activities, conferences, summer camp, or a trip to Israel. Though the fraternity no longer exists, fraternity brothers of Benjamin Asbell (z”l) wanted to memorialize him and help Jewish youth participate in leadership opportunities, something that was important to him. Over 20 years after the fund was established, awardees continue to benefit from this generosity and foresight.
While Jewish culture has lasted for thousands of years, not all organized entities can exist indefinitely in the same way. Fortunately, the legacy that an organization starts can be continued well after its dissolution by endowing a fund in its name.
To learn about creating a legacy for yourself or any Jewish organization you support, please contact me at (856) 673- 2571 or firstname.lastname@example.org